Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a huge hit. Even more surprising is that a soundtrack populated by mostly-forgotten tunes from the 70’s is connecting with fans, most of whom weren’t even alive when these songs were originally released.
So what’s the deal? As Swank-mo-tron noted, Tarantino has put out soundtracks like this and we’re shocked that people like. . . *gasp!* . . . good music?
Contrary to Swank’s opinion, I think what makes this soundtrack great is not that the songs are great. In fact, several of them are abject crap spawned from one of the worst decades of pop music of the last century. If I were putting together a mixtape of songs from the 70’s, I wouldn’t include any of these. . .ok, maybe “I Want You Back.”
But just like the Guardians themselves, these songs are misfits and unconventional choices. But they work. And that’s the beauty. It’s a collection of songs that fits the tone and theme of the film by picking songs rejected from the Island of Misfit Songs, a feat a movie soundtrack hasn’t done since. . .well, the early 90’s with soundtracks like “Singles,” “The Crow,” “Lost Highway” or any number of Tarantino soundtracks. Most of those songs aren't great in and of themselves, but they evoke a mood and ethic that fit the film.
So I got together with Zendobot to take a stab at this and go track by track, including a link to each song, and we’ll go into what might be on an “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” for the now-inevitable Guardians sequel.
1. Blue Swede – Hooked on a Feeling
CitizenBot: “THAT SONG BELONGS TO ME!!!” Peter Quill yells at the guard lifting his Walkman as he gets tased. I never thought this song would get redeemed after being the “dancing baby” song in the late 90’s (thanks Ally McBeal. Actually, yes, thank you, because you helped resurrect Robert Downey Jr’s career, but that’s besides the point.)
Anyway, this “Oooga-Chaka” was the thing that immediately set this trailer apart, as well as rocketing this song to the top of the iTunes charts. There's something about it, despite it being a kitschy throwback used incredibly ironically in a scene where our heroes are processed into prison.
2. Raspberries – Go All the Way
CitizenBot: This is one of those songs I'd never heard before this soundtrack came out. There's a reason why, as it's cobbled together with this amazing, chunky guitar riff that memorably plays over Starlord's escape with the orb on Morag And then it transitions into this by-the-numbers-50's-pop-song that could've been written by Neil Sedaka or Roy Orbison and a bridge blatantly wripped off from The Beatles' "Please Please Me." Love the chunky guitar riffs. Could do without the easy listening.
3. Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky
CitizenBot: I love love LOVE this song. Talk about chunky guitar riffs. And this song makes me nostalgic for the 60's when the Jesus freaks were hippies and into peace and love instead of. . .well, today.
My only complaint? This never made it into the film, but only the trailer. But. . .that trailer, tho.
4. David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
CitizenBot: So, I tell you we're making a space movie with a 70's soundtrack and I ask you to pitch me songs to put in it. David Bowie's name is completely obvious, right? Here, let me give you a couple obvious ideas: Space Oddity. (Duh) Ziggy Stardust. Starman. Life on Mars. Suffragette City. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps. If you just limited it to songs on the Ziggy Stardust album, Moonage Daydream would still be the fifth song I would guess.
Which is why this works. It's NOT obvious. The same way a talking racoon and giant tree aren't obvious. Smart move.
5. Elvin Bishop – Fooled Around and Fell in Love
CitizenBot: What a great song to explain "Footloose" to. "I will not be a victim of your pelvic sorcery!" is a classic rejection. But that's what a little bit of soul will do to a green-skinned, genetically modified superweapon.
6. 10Cc – I’m Not in Love
CitizenBot: This is the song for people for whom Bread and Todd Rundgren had a little too hard of an edge. This song was one I could't have named you the artist or title before now, except that it was the song likely to make me yell, "CHANGE THE STATION. WHAT IS THIS GARBAGE?!?!" It makes me want to do a lot of drugs and slit my wrists, in that order. If I never heard it again, I'd be happy. But, as the song that opens the film with lil' 8 year old Peter Quill sitting in a hospital waiting room, it set the mood perfectly. Death. Sadness. Yes.
7. Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
Zendobot: What’s not to love about a young Michael Jackson’s upbeat pop music? The song will, like many other Jackson 5 hits, make your feet start tapping before you’ve even realized what’s happening. This is yet another song picked for the emotional pull it has in the film and for the title and the songs placement in the film.
CitizenBot: Absolutely. This is one of the best songs of the decade and one of the few instantly recognizable songs on the soundtrack. It also delivers one of the best moments of the film and. . . doesn’t everyone want a dancing Groot in a pot now?
8. Redbone – Come and Get Your Love
CitizenBot: THE SINGLE MOMENT I knew Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be great was the opening credits sequence on Morag when Peter Quill is dancing in the bottom left of the screen, pointing to the sky, singing "Hey-ey! Hey-ey!" and the Title pops up. Hells yes. We're in for something.
9. The Runaways – Cherry Bomb
Zendobot: Explosive is the word that comes to mind when I hear this song. The 14 year old kid in me instantly thinks, “It’s a shame they don’t make Cherry Bomb’s any more.” The more reasonably aged side thought the same but only for a moment as I braced or more dazzling eye candy moments in Guardians.
The track list in this film is an attention getter that a traditional score could never hope to achieve during an audience members first time with the film. When “Cherry Bomb” comes on, the crowd instantly knows to pay attention because they’ll miss something if they don’t.
CitizenBot: My favorite part of this is learning that they played this song on set for the scene where they walked down the hallway in slow motion in preparation for the final battle. Just awesome. Also, The Runaways are such an underappreciated group. A cherry bomb themselves, as it were: big and loud and explosive for a tiny moment and then blew themselves apart by the sheer force of their bombacity. Anything that helps us remember them is awesome.
10. Rupert Holmes – Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
(I refuse to link to this because I hate it so much. Just no.)
CitizenBot: BURN IT! BURN IT WITH FIRE!!! This song deserves to be blasted out of existence using the power of an Infinity Stone. Which is awesome, because it might be one of the most popular songs on this collection. Ugh. But the way it got used in the film? Fine. Glad they didn’t let it linger any longer. Ironic, because, see, they "escape" from prison? "BOOOOOOOOO!" Your pun is bad and you should feel bad.
11. The Five Stairsteps – O-O-H Child
Zendobot: The placement of this track was done brilliantly by Gunn and his creative team. This track was a message from Quill’s mother in life and in death. It was placed in the mix by his mother to comfort the child. Peter’s mom wanted him to know that life is hard but, hopefully, those moments are few and the pass quickly. As Peter’s hand reaches out for his mothers, her message is the same for Peter 2 decades later.
Citizenbot: In that same way, this song worked to save the whole galaxy, if you think about it. Also, this was a song I was not familiar with before seeing the movie, and it struck a major chord with me. In fact, I had some major stress in my life (work related) that made me want to go all fetal position. Instead, I listened to this over and over and over again. And it was about the only thing getting me through that time. And things, indeed, got better, and someday we put it together. Thanks, James Gunn and The Five Stairsteps.
12. Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Citizenbot: This song is just the best. Meredith Quill knew what she was doing, passing along this song to her son. You don’t need any more encouragement than listening to this. Somehow I always equated this song with the civil rights struggles of the 60’s and 70’s and the optimism that people had to hold in order to take on such monumental injustices. I hope that is also not lost on Peter Quill and the rest of the Guardians.
Awesome Mix Vol. 2
So, [spoiler alert], if you saw the film you know that Peter Quill receives a second “Awesome Mix,” which we’re treated to hearing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Want You Back” from. But what other songs might be on here?
We’re promised the Guardians of the Galaxy will return. . . so what would we want on a soundtrack? Make your own Spotify playlist of this one, kids, and leave other suggestions in the comments section.
Most of these I include because they rock, they're funky, groovy, or otherwise awesome. Rather than elect for the more obscure, but also keeping away from the obvious A-list songs, I wanted to put songs that make sense in terms of theme and tone. But mostly, these are just good songs:
Foghat - Slowride
Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band - Express Yourself
Ram Jam - Black Betty
Marvin Gaye - Got to Give It Up
Styx - Renegade
Electric Light Orchestra - Don’t Bring Me Down
Doobie Brothers - China Grove
Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground
ZZ Top - La Grange
Heart - Barracuda
The Hollies - Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
Teddy Pendergrass with Herry Melvin and the Blue Notes - Wake Up Everybody
Cuz ain't nothing like a little Teddy Pendergrass.
The Temptations - Papa Was a Rollin Stone
Let's go find Peter Quill's father. Maybe a message in here from Meredith to young Peter?
Awesome Mix Vol. 3
Ok, Ok, this is just overly indulgent, but I hope I’m not the only Marvel fanboy who can’t wait for the Guardians to make it to Earth, Peter Quill to meet Tony Stark face to face. . . and maybe update his music collection with an iPod holding an incredibly awesome mix of similar music. If Tony quickly scanned the contents of Awesome Mix Vol 1 and 2 and he and JARVIS auto-compiled a list of MP3s to pass along, I think they’d include the following:
Metallica - Whiskey in the Jar
In keeping with the 70’s theme, this is a Thin Lizzy song (actually an old Irish drinking song) covered by Metallica. You know Tony Stark has this one in his library, even if he is more of an AC/DC guy himself. Speaking of:
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, T.N.T., and Thunderstruck
Because AC/DC and Marvel movies go together better than Tony Stark and single malt scotch.
Well, that's it. Make sure to leave your suggestions in the comments section.