Tag Archives: Jumpin Jack Flash

Martin Scorcese’s Use of Music In Film

My first introduction to The Crystals “Then He Kissed Me” was in Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas. As Henry Hill takes his then-girlfriend Karen through the back of a restaurant (avoiding the lines outside) the entire song plays in the background. It’s a single-shot and the camera follows them as they wind their way through the kitchens before finally coming to their table. Karen is naturally impressed, just like Darlene Love’s surprise that her man kissed her.

It’s an oddly sweet moment in a movie which otherwise violent and profane. Unlike many other film-makers Scorcese knows how to use music in movies effectively. The songs simply aren’t put in to take over a scene. Sometimes they are just in the background to extra tension. The swampy sounds of The Rolling Stone’s “Let It Loose” in The Departed heighten the drama between Billy Costigan’s cop turned mole (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Fran Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) mob boss. What starts out as a simple conversation, leads Costigan to believe Costello knows his true identity. The song plays in the background throughout the entire scene, but the song slowly builds to its conclusion as the tension between the two grows. The opening credits of Mean Streets use The Ronettes “Be My Baby” as grainy footage of Robert DeNiro, Harvey Kitel and others are shown. There’s no romance involved. Yet, somehow the images and the song work together creating one of the most iconic opening sequences in movie history.

Then there are his musical documentaries. If there was any question that Scorcese was a fan of rock and roll, you only need to look at The Last Waltz. Hailed as one of the best rock documentaries, The Last Waltz shows The Band playing their final show and performing songs with their closest friends and admirers.  But it’s not just a concert movie. The movie plays a historical version of The Band’s career and influences. Muddy Waters and Dr. John are given just as much time in the movie as The Band’s contemporaries such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.  While The Band was always seen as one of rock’s most impressive bands during their hey-day, there’s little doubt that The Last Waltz helped secure their legacy.

In 2008, Scorcese directed Shine A Light, which showcase the Rolling Stones perform an intimate performance at the Beacon Theater, New York on 2006. While not as transcendent as The Last Waltz, Shine a Light proved that The Rolling Stones could still pack a punch at 60. The performances weren’t overblown.  Instead the ban tore through classics like “Jumpin Jack Flash” and “Satisfaction”. And like The Last Waltz, there a guest-stars whose appearance represents how vast the Stones arm reaches. There’s Buddy Guy who represents the Stones’ blues roots, and Jack White the blues revival wonder. Christina Aguilera’s appearance is slightly questionable, but her rebellious spirit (at the time) seemed to fit with the band.

Scorcese’s latest project is an upcoming documentary on the life of George Harrison dubbed George Harrison: Living in the Material World. If Scorcese’s Bob Dylan project No Direction Home is any indication, rock fans are in for a treat. I just saw the trailer for the documentary and the focus seems to be Harrison’s struggle between spirituality and the life of a famous rock star. While I’m naturally excited the subject material, in Scorcese’s hands, the documentary will no doubt be a worthy tribute to a true genius.

Keith Richards’ Best Guitar Songs

I’m currently in the middle of Keith Richards’ memoir Life, and so far it’s pretty awesome.  I’ll probably review it when I’m actually done.   I’ve always known that good ol’ Keith is an amazing guitarist, and has come up with some of the best riffs in rock, but I had no idea how inventive he actually was in achieving his signature sound.  In Life he describes an opening tuning using the G chord, and removing one of the strings.  He also reveals that “Street Fighting Man” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” were actually played on an acoustic guitar obtaining the distortion through a cassette player.

I’ve only played a little guitar, so I can’t comment about the technical aspect, but here are what I think are some of Keith’s finest moments (and not necessarily the “big” songs either.)

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

A contender for the most bad-ass riff of all time.  It’s loud and dirty, but also leaves a little bit of breathing room to showcase some of Charlie Watt’s best drumming.  Mick Taylor make take over the second half of the song with his fluid leads, but the song is probably best remembered for the riff.

The Last Time

The main riff is hypnotic in its repetition.  It practically moves the song is constant circles, which may also suit the songs lyrics. “This could be the last time, Baby the last time, I don’t know.”

Monkey Man

Some of Keith’s best playing (since he recorded all of the parts for this song and most of Let it Bleed).  There’s the chunky blues riff which drives the verses, the buzz-saw riffing during the bridge, and the slide-guitar solo at the end.

Sweet Virgina

The ultimate camp-fire song.  Keith has often talked about how if you play guitar, you need to start playing acoustic.  The song is a perfect example of that.  The slide-guitar gives the song a down-home country feel.  Even without the background singers, the feel of the song alone begs for people to come together and just play and sing.

Midnight Rambler

The Stones definitely got a lot inspiration from the Chicago Bluesman, and some of their originals could even be passed for old blues standards.  But “Midnight Rambler” is the dark hear of the blues.  While a lot of people probably prefer the faster (and more well known) live version, I’m going to go with the album version here.  By being slightly slower, tension is created by the spaces left between the notes.