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23rd November 2015

Top 5: Songs in Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s filmography is stacked with brilliant music – here are the five moments in his films where his choices of songs best demonstrate his genius

5) The Ronettes – ‘Be My Baby’ (Mean Streets)

Partially tainted by those insurance flogging meerkat bastards, this classic number’s original scene-setting usage is its most powerful. It accompanies the home-recording-style opening credits, creating a jovial atmosphere to shots of Little Italy’s mobster inhabitants. They embrace their surroundings with plenty of Italian charisma and tradition.


4) The Animals – ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (Casino)

Sound and vision are brilliantly aligned here by Martin Scorsese. The sparse guitar intro begins as the on-trial mob bosses decide the fates of potential informers. The song builds to a frantic keyboard-led instrumental section, which is matched by a rise in the action’s tempo. Hit after brutal hit ensues to the tune of the vocalist’s howl. The house always wins.


3) The Rolling Stones – ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ (Mean Streets)

One of many inclusions of Jagger and Richards’ music from Scorsese’s films, but also one of the strongest. Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), the maverick of the gang, is introduced strolling into the bar with a woman under each arm. He oozes cool as the verse kicks in to this early Stones classic, and it’s clear he’s the centre of all attention.


2) Cream – ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ (Goodfellas)

Goodfellas contains a plethora of moments elevated exceptionally by its music, but this is something else. Jimmy (De Niro) encapsulates pure evil in plotting a kill using only a stare as Eric Clapton’s immortal riff plays in the background, Jimmy only interrupts his wickedly unhinged gaze to take a drag from his cigarette. A moment where he appears equally cool as he is deranged.


1) The Rolling Stones – ‘Gimme Shelter’ (The Departed)

Keith Richards’ gritty guitar licks perfectly reflect the Boston street backdrop during The Departed’s opening sequence, where an inspired piece of Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) narration confirms him as a badass from the get go. The powerful female backing vocals are a more than fitting soundtrack to Costello’s atrocious acts, which win him a grip over the Massachusetts capital.

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