Coming-of-age film soundtracks: The '70s
Take your seats, class: It’s time to get schooled in pop culture by the staff of Entertainment Weekly! This week, we continue looking at the role of music inseminal coming-of-age films. Check out yesterday’s class, featuring Dirty Dancing and The Graduate, or skip ahead and see how you score on our our final exam. Stick around all summer long for future EW University courses on Lost, Harry Potter and more.
Closer to Groovy: cruising into the ’70s
Is there a more iconiconscreen odd couple in coming-of-age films than 19-year-old amateursuicide artist Harold (Bud Cort) and the frisky, life-loving septuagenarianMaude (Ruth Gordon)? Harold and Maude (1971) also brought one of the decade’s most unforgettable soundtracks, though Cat Stevens’ (now Yusuf Islam) immortalcontributions weren’t released as an official set until two years ago, in alimited 2,500-copy vinyl run. Still, millions could find its best knownsongs — including “Trouble,” “Tea for the Tillerman,” and “Morning Has Broken” — onother releases.
Later films looking back on the erahad the luxury of cherry-picking their soundtracks in hindsight: 1994’s Crooklyn, Spike Lee’s loving, semi-autobiographical tribute to his rowdychildhood in 1970s Brooklyn, features some of the decade’s best-loved urbananthems — songs like Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” the Staple Singers’ “RespectYourself,” and the Persuaders’ “Thin Line Between Love and Hate.”
1977’s Saturday Night Fever alsofollowed another working-class kid in ‘70s Brooklyn, though Italian-AmericanTony Manero’s (John Travolta) heart belonged to the flashing floor lights of thelocal discotheque — and of course, the sweet falsetto embrace of the Bee Gees(brothers born and bred far away in England and Australia) and their boogying,up-all-night ilk. Though now consigned now to the polyester heap of thesmiley-face decade, songs like “Stayin’ Alive” (“feel the city breakin’ andeverybody shakin’”) and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” have a raw, urbanurgency beneath their squiggly Teflon grooves.
After the jump: A clip of our movie music moment from Almost Famous
Richard Linklater’s 1993 cultclassic Dazed and Confused offered no such darkness; instead, his was asuburban, rock-oriented take on a much more sheltered kind of teenagerdom in1976 Texas (the movie’s title is a direct reference to a Led Zeppelin song,though the band itself refused to grant use of the song). Here, the kids feather theirbangs, torture underclassmen, and meet up for keggers at the moon tower to thetune of War’s “Low Rider,” Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” and Foghat’s “Slow Ride.”
Cameron Crowe’s rock & roll love letter Almost Famous (2000) mines the samesweet AM-radio territory of that era, but brings it to another level by mixingclassic radio hits from the era (The Who’s “Sparks,” Yes’ “I’ve Seen All GoodPeople”) with the story of a fictional band producing real music (Billy Crudupand Jason’s Lee’s vaguely Allman Brothers-esque foursome, Stillwater). AlmostFamous also features what is perhaps one of moviedom’s most beloved meetings ofsong and scene, the tour bus singalong (set to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”). This isn’t a story about people who just love music, they live and — remember that airplane scene? — nearly die for it. Check out the “Tiny Dancer” scene here:
For Reference: Cat Stevens, “Trouble”;The Bee Gees, “More Than a Woman”; Walter Murphy, “A Fifth of Beethoven”; JeanKnight, “Mr. Big Stuff”; the Chi-Lites, “Oh Girl”; Alice Cooper, “School’s Out”;Thunderclap Newman, “Something in the Air”; Stillwater, “FeverDog.”
For discussion: Which genre do you thinkultimately best defines the 70s — disco, or rock? What aboutR&B? Also, did we leave one of your favorite soundtracks off of our list? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Class is dismissed. Your homework? Check out some of the tracks listed above. And come back tomorrow, when we look at the best teen film soundtracks of the 1980s.