“I Got a Name” – Jim Croce … from “Django Unchained” (2012)

One of the best scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” contains no action and no dialogue.  It’s just a simple montage of Jamie Foxx’s and Christoph Waltz’s characters riding horses set to Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name.”  A big part of my love for this scene is due to the Croce song, one of my favorites from listening to AM-radio in the 1970s. 

“Jump Into the Fire” – Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson’s hard rock showstopper from 1971’s “Nilsson Schmillson” album.  “Fire’s” most famous appearance was as the main musical piece during the extended paranoid climax of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster-film classic “Goodfellas.”  Apparently Scorsese’s first choice for this scene was the Rolling Stones’ 1983 rocker “She Was Hot,” but since Scorsese has a strict policy of only using music that was recorded during the period he’s depicting or earlier (the scene in question took place in 1980), he went with Nilsson’s song instead.  I have to say this is a much better choice as it is a lot more ominous sounding.  And seriously, could you imagine that final climactic scene with any other music than “Fire”?  A great song for being paranoid.  And as they say, paranoia is just reality on a finer scale.

“Shoot out the Lights” – X

X covers Richard Thompson’s classic 1982 song about a lone assassin.  From the mid-1990s Richard Thompson-tribute album “Beat the Retreat.”  Some blistering electric guitar on this one, as well as some nice harmonizing by John Doe and Exene Cervenka.  Seriously, if you’re a fan of X and/or Thompson, you really need to check this out.

“Valley Girl” – Frank and Moon Zappa

Frank Zappa’s biggest “hit,” “Valley Girl” came about because his daughter Moon, wanted to spend time with her father, who was either always on the road or sequestered in his home studio.  According to Barry Miles’s biography of Frank, Moon slipped a note under Frank’s home studio door “addressed to ‘Daddy” (not ‘Frank,’ as he liked to be called). She introduced herself: ‘I’m 13 years old.  My name is Moon.  Up until now I have been trying to stay out of your way while you record.  However, I have come to the conclusion that I would love to sing on your album …  She gave the house telephone number and asked him to contact her agent, Gail Zappa, and suggested that she might do her ‘Encino accent’ or her “Surfer Dood Talk.’  ‘It was me saying ‘Pay attention to me!'”

Eventually, Frank woke his daughter Moon up in the middle of the night to record the conversations she had with her friends, phrases she picked up by living in the San Fernando Valley and going to various “parties, bar mitzvahs, and the (Sherman Oaks) Galleria.”  Per Frank, the song was NOT intended to be a celebration of the Valley, but an illustration of how vapid and depressing the area was.

The song first became a hit on KROQ-FM in Los Angeles when the station played the song during an interview with Moon.  The response from the public was phenomenal and the song was added to heavy rotation, prompting other stations to do likewise.  The song became a national hit, going as high as Number 32 on Billboard’s pop charts and Number 12 on the Mainstream Rock charts.  The song’s popularity was a thorn in Zappa’s side, because of the way people adopted “Valley-speak” and philosophy as a positive thing.

The clip here is Moon appearing on a pop music show performing “Valley Girl” with some dancers dressed in some hideous but spot-on 1980s style clothes. 

Moon has a lot of great stories to tell, some of which can be heard in this interview she did with Marc Maron back in 2013.


“Box of Rain” – The Grateful Dead as seen in the TV series “Freaks and Geeks” (2000)

Another wonderful moment from the stellar TV show “Freaks and Geeks” involving rock music.  This is from the final episode, where Lindsay Weir, a high school honor student disenchanted with the expectations put upon her, puts on the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” album and really connects with it, especially the opening track “Box of Rain.” 

“Odd Rod” – The Goddamn Gentlemen

One band I am sad to discover much too late is Portland, Oregon’s The Goddamn Gentlemen.  This is one of the best bands never recorded by Crypt Records, equal to the New Bomb Turks, the Oblivians and every other gunk-punk genius who kicked complete a– back in the 1990s and 2000s.   Both of their brilliant albums (“Sex Caliber Horsepower” and “Chariots of Fire Spitting Cobras”) can still be sought out.  If you love nasty, molar-rattling punk, it’s well worth your while seeking these out.  Oh, and both albums are in heavy rotation over at Dave’s Strange Radio.

“Loving Cup” – The Rolling Stones … early demo from 1969 with Mick Taylor (first session)

Oh my freaking God!!!!! An early version of the classic Rolling Stones song “Loving Cup” … from 1969.  This is allegedly from tapes from Mick Taylor’s first session from the band.  While I prefer the final version that appeared on “Exile on Main Street” in 1972, this much bluesier version is still pretty jaw-dropping.  Seriously, there was no better band in rock history than the Rolling Stones from 1966 through 1972.