PBC #6: Sound & Vision

Playlist By Committee is a subdivision of the Institute of Idle Time dedicated to the preservation of the mixtape format. Each month, four governing members and one guest contributor choose a theme and each pick five songs that best correspond to that theme. The songs are then reviewed and ranked by the committee, with the the top songs being added until an 80 minute blank CD is filled. The list is then published via Mixcloud for the listening pleasure of all who seek it. This is our 6th playlist

In the spirit of our ongoing Ultimate Playbill project, we felt it was time to pay homage to the songs that take some of our favorite movie scenes to the next level. PBC #6: Sound & Vision features 19 of our favorite songs from classic films. My good friend Carter was able to join as the guest contributor and four of his five picks made it in, a solid contribution!

The theme behind this playlist was what songs did the best job at elevating the scene it accompanied. While I think we did an incredible job, I personally decided to break that theme on a few occasions. Sometimes, I’m just really excited to hear a certain song where I’m not expecting it to be heard. That cost me a couple blurbs in the end, so I don’t get to write about The Walkmen’s “Angela Surf City” in Seven Psychopaths or The Rapture’s “Echoes” in Superbad. While neither of those songs do anything to elevate their respective films, there’s something about the joy of hearing your favorite bands in a film setting that makes the song even more special. Even though some of the songs that fit that slightly different mold were sacrificed, the final product is certainly more uniform.

We hope you’ll enjoy!

1. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (SHAFT, 1971)

The fonkiest intro, the backinest vocals, the smoothest singin’. At one point in a person’s life they should ready themselves with this song, before an interview, before a proposal, a sporting match, or taking the Bar exam. You won’t have to pretend that when the singers say “John Shaft” who they really mean is YOU! – IP

2. Geto Boys – Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta (OFFICE SPACE, 1999)

No matter how many times I watch Office Space, despite the Earth spinning further and further away from 1999, the overall premise will never get old. Everyone at some point in their life is going to experience the same feelings that Peter has of struggling to find out what it is we’re doing with our lives and careers. The Geto Boys hit not only soundtracks one of the funniest segments of the film, its breezy, laidback beat is so damn comforting. Everyone goes through this phase of their life where they are unsure about what is happening in their lives. Luckily for us, this rap song in particular is extremely easy to learn the lyrics to, that way we can all sing along and feel out of place together. – MH 

3. Bob Dylan – The Man In Me (THE BIG LEBOWSKI, 1998)

Take note people: B-Dylla usually pops up on our mixes thanks to his extensive catalogue, but never before (and probably never again) have I been the one to nominate him. “The Man In Me” is the first Bob Dylan song I fell in love with, and it was absolutely because of this dreamy sequence in The Big Lebowski. Dylan rarely gets this melodic, I’ve yet to hear a song another song of his with such great back up vocalists (though I admit, I’m uneducated in that area), and the result is a great piece of romance. The Dude is a bit rough around the edges, and no doubt a fuck up, but the fact this song is part of his hallucination just underlines the beauty and goodness of his soul. – RF

4. Night Ranger – Sister Christian (BOOGIE NIGHTS, 1997)

When a drug deal goes wrong, all you want to do is get out of there as soon as you can, and these three schmucks have to listen to this lunatic in a bathrobe sing a hair metal song, with a little boy throwing fire crackers. It is one of the most uneasy scenes in a movie ever, but PTA is really able to make it stick with this excellent song choice that not only defines the movie, but was also an anthem during the era the film took place in.- CA

5. Tears For Fears – Head Over Heels (DONNIE DARKO, 2001)

This long cut is no joke. That falsetto is no joke. I still don’t think I understand Donnie Darko fully, but this scene kicks ass. – CA

6. Kavinsky – Nightcall (DRIVE, 2011)

Take a road trip with some buddies through the middle of the night. Play this song as loud as you can when you arrive at your determined city. Amazing. Quite possibly the best opening credit song in film history, including “Miserlou” (sorry Tarrantino). – CA 

7. Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound Of Silence (THE GRADUATE, 1967)

The Graduate is a pioneering film for many reasons and one of the most important is the fact it is the first movie to use pop music as part of the soundtrack. Without this film, this PBC wouldn’t even be possible. Of course, the song appears several times during the film but none as effective as when Benjamin is swimming in his sadness over his affair. You can’t help but feel a connection and sense of dread watching him float in the pool and drink himself away. The isolation is so real and Simon and Garfunkel really hammer it in. – BC

8. Lou Reed – Perfect Day (TRAINSPOTTING, 1996)

One of the best examples of juxtaposition in film. Hearing Lou Reed sing of the perfect day while watching Rent (Ewan McGregor) OD on heroin was a defining moment in my young cinematic journey. The look of defeat and sadness when the final lines of ,”you’re going to reap what you sow” just hits me in my guts every time. – BC

9. Harry Belafonte – Banana Boat Song (Day-O) (BEETLEJUICE, 1988)

Fun story; this song used to trigger nightmares for me as a child. Beetlejuice is a scary fucking movie for an elementary school kid. I’d here this song come on and I thought Beetlejuice was in the vicinity. Clearly I had issues. – CA

10. Public Enemy – Fight The Power (DO THE RIGHT THING, 1989)

 Two words. Rosie. Perez. – MH

11. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street (JACKIE BROWN, 1997)

A theme song so good it became the theme of a different film 30 years later, and it just so happens to fit Jackie Brown perfectly. Tarantino exercised an uncommon restraint with his third film, but in the soundtrack department he got to play. Repurposing the old to do something new and unconventional. Pam Grier owned the screen, and Bobby Womack acts as her inner voice, the thing in the back of her head keeping her cool, keeping her on mission. – IP

12. Stealers Wheel – Stuck In The Middle With You (RESERVOIR DOGS, 1992)

Quentin Tarantino’s soundtrack selections reflect his knack for taking obscure, yet delightful pop artifacts and reintroducing them to the world, creating a new significance for something once forgotten. Just look at John Travolta. And more recently, Kurt Russell. (So good to have him back!)
“Stuck in the Middle with You” was a top Billboard hit in 1972, but Stealers Wheel would never again reach those heights. When it appeared in Reservoir Dogs as part of “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s,” it once again entered the collective pop consciousness, never to be viewed as a blip on the musical landscape again, but as an integral piece of legendary cinema. The irony is delicious as “Mad Madsen” dances around with his switchblade, singing along in the first person, looking for the answers that will finally bring this heist-fiasco to an end, when it’s the hapless police officer who is unfortunately, literally, stuck in the middle. – RF

13. Huey Lewis & The News – Hip To Be Square (AMERICAN PSYCHO, 2000)

In my sophomore year of high school, I went to a friend’s house to buy some weed. I stood outside his house and watched him scale down from the 2nd story to deliver my product. Alongside it, he also gave me a copy of American Psycho.  I became obsessed with the film after that and proceed to memorize every line from this scene. I still can do most of it by heart but something about a grisly murder set to upscale Huey Lewis struck me as so funny. Christian Bale’s dance and manic energy is the perfect foil to song and the whole scene still holds up as a classic. – BC

14. Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (FULL METAL JACKET, 1987)

Sex oozes from your speakers. A tapping finds its way to your feet. And you think, “get ‘em Nancy.” Pop songs used to have a simplicity that I miss. This song is a bass line, a few horns, and a sexy lady talkin’ big. The song to summarize the go-go feminism of the 60’s. Kubrick’s usage of the song found a way to capture the feeling of the Vietnam era, without using a song actually about the war itself. – IP

15. Q Lazzarus – Goodbye Horses (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, 1991)

No joke, this is my standard karaoke song. Yes, I do it complete with the Buffalo Bill dance. Everything about the scene is perfect in my eyes. The thumping dance bass opening set to Bill putting on his lipstick is still one of the creepiest images. His iconic “I’d fuck me” gets stuck in your brain just like this ear worm of a song.  I never get tired of the song or this scene. It’s one of defining moments in horror history and I can’t help but admire the craft every time. – BC

16. Roy Orbison – In Dreams (BLUE VELVET, 1986)

Sound design and music are two essential parts of David Lynch’s filmography. In one of his most famous moments, Lynch introduces us to Ben, one suave fucker. Instead of threatening our captured protagonist, Ben lip sings Roy Orbison in a creepy yet beautiful scene. Just like our hero we don’t really know what to make of it. Will more violence erupt? All we can do is sit an enjoy Ben and try to ignore the tension. – BC

17. Francoise Hardy – Le Temps De L’Amour (MOONRISE KINGDOM, 2012)

Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg recorded this song in 1962. America had not discovered sexy music yet, so it had to be imported. Wes Anderson uses the song to show a burgeoning romance develop between two precocious pre-teens. As they dance on the beach in their underwear the viewer can feel a bit guilty, like a voyeur, because it’s their love, not ours that has awakened. What better song to show the first blossoms of sexuality than a song that predates the American Sexual Revolution. – IP

18. Nico – These Days (THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, 2001)

I defy you to not fall in love with Margot Tenenbaum as she walks off the bus and this song begins to play. “These Days” is the rare song used to justify incestuous love; that is undeniably bold. Wes Anderson is the superstar of this list, a well deserved accolade for the only director who uses music to engage with the viewer’s psyche, to force the viewer to relate to an alien feeling. But the feeling isn’t alien, it’s love, the most natural and common emotion in the human existence. Nico’s haunted drones above Phil Spector’s lush strings betray the ugliness and messiness of love, but together they create instant empathy. – IP

19. Faces – Ooh La La (RUSHMORE, 1998)

Nobody tells a tale of redemption like Wes Anderson. Each one of his films sees characters that have to confront their own weaknesses, overcome their personal deficiencies, on a journey to become whole again. Rushmore has always been my favorite Anderson flick. I’ve always felt Max Fisher was a kindred spirit, even more so when I was twelve. He’s a precocious kid obsessed with the adult world, yet emotionally unprepared to manage the responsibilities and relationships that make up adulthood. Max learns the hard way, which is sometimes the best way, because the most lasting impressions are often made through personal experience.
Max doesn’t have it bad like some other young movie characters, but he no doubt goes through the emotional wringer, and comes out wiser, tougher, and more formed than he was when the film began. “Nah, I didn’t get hurt that bad” he tells Ms. Cross, accepting the necessity of growing pains.
Slow motion is so often applied to elevate action sequences (Suck a turd, Zack Snyder), but Anderson simply tries to get as much as he can from the moment. Everything that leads up to this scene is fleeting, the emotions of the story are powerful, yet impermanent, and though nothing lasts forever, I admire how Anderson treasures those moments where suffering bares sweet fruit, and lets them last just a little longer. Though he ends a lot of his movies this way, no song quite encapsulates the overall theme of his movies quite as well as “Ooh La La” does with Rushmore. – RF

20. Pixies – Where Is My Mind? (FIGHT CLUB, 1999)

This was our consensus pick, and would you expect anything else? I could blabber on about why this pick is so necessary for this list, but you’d probably rather listen to guys like Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering, you know, actual Pixies, explain it. It’s really refreshing to hear a band be so pleased with the song’s placement in the film. 9 times out of 10 it feels like it’s a clear cash grab to eventually be regretted. Clearly this was not the case.

And here’s the scene, cause you definitely want to watch that again now.


1. Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes
2. Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta – Geto Boys
3. The Man In Me – Bob Dylan
4. Sister Christian – Night Ranger
5. Head Over Heels – Tears For Fears
6. Nightcall – Kavinsky
7. The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
8. Perfect Day – Lou Reed
9. Banana Boat Song (Day-O) – Harry Belafonte
10. Fight The Power – Public Enemy
11. Across 110th Street – Bobby Womack
12. Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
13. Hip To Be Square – Huey Lewis & The News
14. These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ – Nancy Sinatra
15. Goodbye Horses – Q Lazzarus
16. In Dreams – Roy Orbison
17. Le Temps De L’Amour – Francoise Hardy
18. These Days – Nico
19. Ooh La La – Faces
20. Where Is My Mind? – Pixies