One of the things about being a slightly obsessive music collector is that you get soundtrack albums by artists you like even when you haven’t seen the films that they are from. So here’s my top ten soundtracks to films that I’ve never actually seen…
1 – Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
This is one that would probably be on a lot of people’s lists, because it’s such a classic album, but not necessarily such a classic film, even if it is one of the more famous blaxplotation movies (is that just because of the soundtrack though? See Shaft for a similar argument). Curtis had already established himself as one of the top soul/funk artists around after leaving The Impressions, and this cemented his place in history, with classic tracks like Pusherman, Freddie’s Dead and the title track. Why haven’t I then sought out the film to hear these songs placed alongside the action? Well, I tried that with the aforementioned Shaft, and found that it all just got in the way of the great tunes…
2 – Prince – Purple Rain
Have I ever wanted to watch Prince act in a film? No, I have not, and this is why I have never seen Purple Rain. But that doesn’t stop it being one of the best albums ever released, packed full of classic songs like, well, Purple Rain, When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy. How any of the songs fit into the flimsy narrative about a young musician and his girlfriend trying to make it in Minneapolis is something I couldn’t even speculate, but when you’re listening to the music, that hardly matters, so I don’t think I’ll be watching the film anytime soon.
3 – Björk – Selmasongs: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack Dancer in the Dark
Here’s one that I probably should have made more of an effort to watch, what with Björk actually starring in the film as well as doing the soundtrack, but it looks like the kind of film you need to be a certain mood to want to watch, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in that kind of mood. Still, the music is great, and on the album you get Thom Yorke duetting on the beautiful I’ve Seen It All, rather than Peter Stormare, which can only be a good thing.
4 – Various – Singles
I like Cameron Crowe films, but I tend to like them for their soundtracks more than anything else. As a former Rolling Stone journalist and husband of Nancy Wilson from Heart, Crowe knows and loves his music, so his soundtracks are always worth listening to. Singles is probably his best, particularly as it epitomises its time and place perfectly. Set in Seattle in the early 90s, it’s grunge all over and features classic songs (most of them unique to this album) by the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Alice In Chains and Mother Love Bone, as well as non-natives Smashing Pumpkins. The film? Well, it always just sounded a bit dull.
5 – Daft Punk – Tron Legacy
As a child, I remember hating Tron and when I tried watching the original in a bid to get myself vaguely interested in the sequel, my feeling were basically the same. So I didn’t go and see Tron Legacy when it came out and still haven’t. However, I do like Daft Punk, so I got the soundtrack and while it’s not quite as amazing as people were suggesting before it came out, and lacks a bit of the magic of their usual work, it’s still a soundtrack that you can listen to on its own without needing the visuals to perk it up at all. The remix album is also pretty good.
6 – Mike Patton – Crank: High Voltage
It’s safe to say that I don’t watch many Jason Statham movies, so the only way I would end up with the soundtrack to one of them would be if one of my favourite artists had made the music. And so it is with this. Quite why former Faith No More (well, kind of current, given that they do live shows from time to time) singer Mike Patton found himself attached to this dumb tale of a man who will die if he doesn’t keep his adrenaline levels up, I have no idea, but it hasn’t stopped him creating another of his virtuoso collections of short bursts of noise, mixed in with Morricone-esque interludes and odd bits of vocals.
7 – Various – Judgement Night
Apparently the film sees a bunch of friends get mixed up in some serious business in the projects after they witness a drug murder. Frankly, it sounds pretty terrible, but the soundtrack is legendary for its groundbreaking mix of hip-hop and rock. Of course, long before 1993, Run DMC and Aerosmith had got together and merged the two genres, but Judgement Night took it that step further, with original material created by unlikely pairings like Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill, Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot and Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul. It doesn’t all work seamlessly, but it’s a cracking album.
8 – Air – The Virgin Suicides
A lot of these have been films that I would never want to watch, but here’s one that I just happen to have not ever got around to watching. There’s no real reason why. But it’s got a lovely score by Air, with the classic Playground Love amongst the highlights. Surely at some point I’ll have to take this off the list because I’ll have seen it, but for now, it’s there.
9 – Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle – One From The Heart
I like Francis Ford Coppola films and I love Las Vegas, but I’ve never been tempted to see One From The Heart. However, it does like a lovely soundtrack by Tom Waits and country singer Crystal Gayle, one of the last really straightforward releases Waits has done, and certainly a word away from Swordfishtrombones, which came out a year later. He’s mostly on full-blown crooner mode (as close as his voice gets to it anyway) here and it’s one of his most underrated releases. Maybe I should check out the film someday.
10 – Various – Spawn
I’ve seen little bits of Spawn, here and there, but never been able to stomach enough to watch more than that. However, it’s got a soundtrack that was kind of a 1997 version of the Judgement Night one, with rock bands collaborating with electronic artists rather than rappers. It’s not quite as successful, particularly as it generally just sounds like industrial rock, which had been around for quite a while by then, but Can’t You Trip Like I Do by Filter and Crystal Method is worth the price of admission alone.