Sounds of the Cinema: 10 Songs From Quentin Tarantino Movies You Should Listen To | Article by Indie Accent


Sounds of the Cinema: 10 Songs From Quentin Tarantino Movies You Should Listen To

Writer Aradi Priyanto


Whilst many a time soundtracks go unnoticed, a mere addition to what we see on screen, some directors utilize them to the full, enhancing the all-round experience that connects you even more emotionally and thematically to each movie. In the ‘Sounds of the Cinema’ series, we will be exploring the soundtracks of movies made by our favorite indie movie directors.

Quentin Tarantino has brought us movies such as Reservoir Dogs, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and the classic Pulp Fiction. His movies are sleek and stylish, always true to his own unique, now-trademark, style. His soundtracks are never any different, adding depth to the themes, with his song choices being the key to some of his most iconic movie moments.

Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel (Reservoir Dogs)

A song from Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino’s feature-length directorial debut, often regarded as one of the all-time greatest independent movies. It is an easy-going pop-rock song, by short-lived Scottish rock band Stealers Wheel. A danceable, Bob Dylan inspired tune, the folk roots are strong in this song, with vocal harmonies, and twangy guitars above an acoustic lead.

This song provides the soundtrack to perhaps the most iconic scene in the movie. In the movie, Vic Vega, or Mr. Blonde, unsettlingly dances to this song whilst torturing a kidnapped policeman. Michael Madsen, who plays Mr. Blonde, later explained how he completely improvised the scene, and that he had never listened to the song before the take.

Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield (Pulp Fiction)

Written for the legendary Aretha Franklin, this song was recorded in 1968 by British soul singer Dusty Springfield. Springfield’s songs were effective vehicles for her husky and smoky, intimate voice that allures you. It is based on Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s best-known work. Considered as one of the best movies of all time, changing independent cinema forever.

This smooth song sets the tone in the scene in Pulp Fiction in which we are introduced to Uma Thurman’s iconic character Mia Wallace, as John Travolta’s Vincent Vega picks her up. Tarantino has stated that he wouldn’t have filmed the scene if he could not use this song. Mia’s allure that Tarantino us portraying is furthered by the song and Springfield’s voice.

You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry (Pulp Fiction)

Written and performed by the ‘Father of Rock and Roll’ Chuck Berry, You Never Can Tell was released in 1964. A highly danceable tune, it was on the St. Louis to Liverpool album, written with the ‘British Invasion’ of rock acts in mind. The song showcases Berry’s brilliant lyricism and storytelling as well as his strong blues roots with a riffing piano and horns.

In Pulp Fiction, Mia and Vincent take part in a swing contest at a 50’s style diner. The Jack Rabbit Slims dance scene has become easily one of, or perhaps the most iconic movie scenes. Mia and Vincent do their effortlessly cool dance routine to You Never Can Tell, slick and stylish, as the song is. Tarantino himself was seen letting loose to the song behind the scenes.

Inside My Love – Minnie Riperton (Jackie Brown)

One of the more underrated Tarantino movies, Jackie Brown is his only movie which was adapted from previous work, in this case Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, and is an homage to 70s Blaxploitation movies. Contrary to the rock-heavy soundtracks of his past two movies, the soundtrack is a classy mix of R&B and soul, a perfect fit for the movie and genre.

It is fitting that a soundtrack of such would feature one of the soul and R&B queens, Minnie Riperton. Riperton’s simply legendary, but effortlessly used vocal range takes center stage, with her unique use of the whistle register also showcased on Inside My Love. The soulful accompaniment, complete with strings, horns and a smooth bassline, sets the vibe perfectly.

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) – Nancy Sinatra (Kill Bill: Volume 1)

The eldest daughter of the legend himself, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra was also a hit-making popstar in her time. Bang Bang, however, was first written as a folk-rock tune for and performed by popstar Cher in 1966. Sinatra turned it into her own, stripping it and slowing it down with the simple accompaniment of a tremolo guitar, putting the spotlight on her voice.

The song made it into the Kill Bill: Volume 1 soundtrack, which was compiled by RZA, from the all-time great hip-hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan. The song plays at the very start, where a wedding scene introduces us to Uma Thurman’s character, the Bride, or Black Mamba. Tarantino utilizes the song to add to the suspense surrounding both the scene and character.

Goodnight Moon – Shivaree (Kill Bill: Volume 2)

Kill Bill was released in two parts, with Volume: 2 being released a year apart from the first. The movie itself was Tarantino’s homage to grindhouse movies, inspired by martial arts movies, samurai cinema, Blaxploitation and spaghetti westerns. The many inspirations for the movie reflects on the soundtrack as well, as seen by RZA’s contribution and the songs in it.

Shivaree was an indie band set up in 1997, with singer-songwriter Ambrosia Parsley as lead woman. Playing indie Americana, the band released Goodnight Moon in 2000 as the star track of their debut album. Making it on the Volume 2 soundtrack, the mysterious vocals, echoed guitars and organs bring an alternative country western vibe to an indie pop tune.

Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – David Bowie (Inglourious Basterds)

Cat People was composed by Giorgio Moroder, known as the “Father of Disco” in 1982, as the theme song for a horror movie of the same name. David Bowie wrote the lyrics and sang on it, later re-recording it for his Grammy nominated album Let’s Dance. A heavy, post-punk rock tune, with 80s synths and electronic influences, Bowie gives a stellar vocal performance.

An 80s-electro tune should not feel in place in a movie set in Nazi-era Germany, but Bowie’s timeless vocals and Tarantino’s ingenuity meant it fit perfectly in Inglorious Basterds. The song is heard in the scene where Melanie Laurent’s Shosanna Dreyfus is plotting her revenge, with Tarantino masterfully managing to suit the song’s lyrics and timing to the scene.

Apple Blossom – The White Stripes (The Hateful Eight)

Multi-Grammy award winning Indie rock royalty, the White Stripes, made up out of once-husband and wife duo Jack White and Meg White, recorded Apple Blossom for their second album De Stijl, a cult classic. A step back from their ever-energetic brand of garage rock, this more laid-back, acoustic based effort reveals the alternative blues side of the American duo.

Apple Blossom features in The Hateful Eight, one of two Tarantino Westerns, alongside Django Unchained. Grammy hall of famer Ennio Morricone composed the award-winning, star-studded soundtrack, his first Western since the 80s. The song carries a scene in which Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren is on a journey with Kurt Russel’s John Ruth.

Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Mrs. Robinson is already associated with a movie, the historically and culturally significant classic from 1967, The Graduate. A folk-rock tune by the legendary duo Simon & Garfunkel, it is undeniably catchy and will get you hooked from the opening harmonies. A brilliant acoustic composition by Paul Simon and that distinct Art Garfunkel sound gives it heart.

The song gets a feature on Tarantino’s latest movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. The movie often features KHJ, an actual Californian radio station at that time, to create a mixtape filled with retro rock n’ roll tunes from the time as the soundtrack, even using contemporary radio advertisements and real-life radio chatter recorded from the radio hosts at that time.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Vanilla Fudge (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Vanilla Fudge are an American band who were popular at the period the movie was set in, the late 60s. They are famed for reworking contemporary pop songs into slowed psychedelic rock. You Keep Me Hangin’ On is one of these covers. It is originally a hit from the Supremes, the Motown girl group which launched the career of the great Diana Ross.

Many of the songs featured in the movie through the characters listening to KHJ radio, most frequently Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth during his car journeys. This chilled song, however, features prominently as it is the contrasting backing track to the bloody climax of the movie, when Manson Family members attempt to kill Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton at his home.