There's always the "Car Door Slam" method, the cobbled-together album of hits lashed onto the finished movie (invariably when people get in or out of cars). Then there's the other breed of soundtrack. John Naughton talks to the musicians, directors and producers whose choice of rock 'n' roll film music is as telling and resonant as the script itself.
THE HUMAN TOUCH - Bruce Springsteen
Wrote the Oscar-winning title song, "Streets of Philadelphia," for the Jonathan Demme-directed "Philadelphia"
For the first time ever, you've written a song specifically for a film.
I've never written specifically for a picture, because it tends to be a difficult way to write. You don't just pick a topic and write a song about it. He [Jonathan Demme] gave me an idea emotionally of what he was looking for, and I said, "Well I'm not very good at doing that. I don't think I can write in that fashion". But I took a swing at it and sent him the best that I had, and hoped that he liked it.
How did you get involved with Philadelphia?
He [Demme] sent me the piece of the film that's at the top of the picture. It opens up and you're inside this person's head, and you have the rare opportunity to get acquainted with the character and the circumstances before the movie actually starts. So the song is very internal, the voice of the song is someone's thoughts, the person is almost telling the story to themselves.
The scenes he sent me were of kids playing, people on the street, people walking, just daily life. So the idea was to contrast how this person was in a life and death struggle with all these images of life -- fire engines, people at the bakery. I felt the juxtaposition might work. I thought the sound was 'wide'. It moved slowly. The music was meant to feel like an orchestra. It seemed to go well with the images he sent me.
Was Streets Of Philadelphia written from the point of view of Tom Hanks' character, someone afflicted with the disease [AIDS]?
I tried to do that, but at the same time make it more general emotionally. The song could be about a lot of things -- the spiritual, how your soul feels, how everybody's felt, hopefully, like these characters at some point. I wanted it to be read a few different ways.
Why did you agree to do a song for a motion picture?
It was out of my respect for [Demme] and his pictures. It wasn't something I'd thought about. I'm interested in doing a broader range of things at the moment, and I'm trying some things that I haven't done before. So when Jon called, it was like, Gee, could I do this!
What film music do you particularly like?
I'm a big Ennio Morricone fan. He's made a lot of great music for pictures. Jack Nitzsche has done a lot of good stuff. I liked Ry Cooder's Paris Texas score. Mark Knopfler has done some nice scores too - I like his score for Local Hero.
Why did you re-record "Streets Of Philadelphia" for the video [also directed by Demme]?
Generally if you're lip-synching, you're acting. You spend 20 years learning how to be a musician, not act! Whenever I see my own videos, there's always some isolation that occurs... there's always some blank space between what we're trying to communicate and what actually reaches the audience. Music is the score but it turns into a visual expression, and it's strange because you're not really playing. You're pretending you're playing, you're pretending you're singing, and that's what it looks like. I sang live in [the videos for] Better Days and Brilliant Disguise. It puts some glue between what's happening visually and what's happening orally. It's occurring at the time of the shoot and it makes it more immediate.
Do you think "Streets Of Philadelphia" might help the film reach a broader audience?
I think the picture is great, and there's an audience waiting for it. The country is waiting for something that's going to address these questions of tolerance and of how people are going to live together in the future. Demme called me and said, "l made this picture, and I want it to play in the malls". I think he had something in mind when he called me. I'm some salt on the steak. The music in the picture is great... Neil Young's song is spectacular.
What do you think of the completed film?
I think the whole picture transforms at the Maria Callas scene. It's one of the riskiest scenes in the picture. All of a sudden the whole thing manifests itself -- it's beautiful. Tom Hanks is terrific.