Sounds of 'The Sopranos'
David Chase has sleepy eyes, cool and heavy-lidded, as if he's seen most everything that life -- real or dramatized -- has to unspool. But ask him about music, particularly classic rock, and boy, do those peepers dance to a 4/4 beat.
Obscure songs by big-name artists. Big songs by otherwise-obscure groups. Everything from Rome-set opera to that lost John Cooper Clarke nugget, the expletive-laden "Evidently Chicken Town." Django to Wyclef Jean. Vivaldi to Van Morrison. From "Cake" to Cream to, well, Chicken, the show features one heckuva sonic smorgasbord.
With the finale at hand, we pause to acknowledge: The man is a walking Wikipedia of sound, complete with audio clips.
Directors from Coppola to Scorsese and Tarantino are often celebrated for their musical choices, but Chase certainly belongs in that soundtrack-sensitive pantheon. He, with one producer, reportedly picks all the music that fills the "Sopranos" jukebox, which at times can feel like "I, Claudius" meets "iTunes." And picking up on his attention to musical detail, many die-hard fans of the show delight in guessing which tune DJ David will spin next.
So among the most-debated questions for the finale -- somewhere after "Will Tony live or die?" but long before "Will the Smithsonian get Silvio's hairpiece for posterity?" -- is: What songs will Chase choose to go out on?
Herewith, then, our top-10 picks for the show's last waltz -- the acts, and songs, we'd put on Tony's final mixtape:
10. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND -- An obvious pick, what with the band's Van Zandt still (barely) breathing as Tony's consigliere Sil -- and thus a sentimental pick, as well. The real challenge is what to pluck from the massive catalogue of THE Boss. We're mighty tempted to choose "Meeting Across the River," the track from 1975's "Born to Run" (dealing with the desperate criminal), but ultimately we go with "Jungleland," its companion tune that has helped end so many Springsteen concerts. (Lyrical needle-drops: "The rat's own dream guns him down as shots echo down them hallways in the Night"; and: "And try to make an honest stand but they wind up wounded, not even dead.")
9. THE ROLLING STONES -- Another natural pick, given Chase's track record. And judging by blog postings, the go-to track would be "Sympathy for the Devil" (which another HBO show, "Entourage," has used as apparent jokey-homage to superagent Ari). But we're gonna go with "Moonlight Mile." From fading dreams to weather-as-psychological-state metaphor, it's chock full of the stuff of Chase loves. Plus it's got the lyric "coming home," which was rumored to be Chase's original title for the series pilot. (Lyrical needle-drop: I am just living to be lying by your side.")
8. THE BAND -- They're got everything to recommend them here: They were Dylan's backing band. They worked with Scorsese. Robbie Robertson appears on the "Raging Bull" soundtrack. And Marty's concert documentary about them was so fittingly called "The Last Waltz." So we'll pick a tune from that film's soundtrack. "Ophelia?" Shakespearean overtones, but really, notsomuch. "I Shall Be Released"? misses somehow. No, we'll go with "The Weight" -- if only for the lyric that echoes Chase's use of Yeats's slouching-toward-Bethlehem poem "Second Coming": "I pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling about half-past dead / I just needed some place where I can lay my head... "
7. DJANGO REINHARDT -- Chase, a man who likes to spend some time nearer to Paris, surely must appreciate the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. And for the finale, we venture that he'll pick "Avalon." (Soundtrack footnote: In Scorsese's "The Aviator," Scorsese chose Benny Goodman's "Avalon.")
6. THE DOORS -- The penultimate episode kept up the drumbeat of references to terror and war, so we'll pine for the eerie, evocative "The End" because, well -- if it was good and great enough for Coppola amid the terror and war of "Apocalypse Now." But that pick's too on the nose for Chase. "Moonlight Drive"? "Strange Days"? Nah, we'll go with the novelty of Kurt Weill's "Alabama Song / Whiskey Bar." (Lyrical needle-drops: "We've lost our good old mama" (possible plot turn?) and "I tell you we must die.")
5. FRANK SINATRA -- How can an epic about Jersey -- and the Mob -- not include Ol' Blue Eyes? But talk about your king-sized catalogues. While Tony has often insisted on doing it "My Way," we lean toward something off of "In the Wee Small Hours": In a toss-up, we pick "Mood Indigo" over "Deep in a Dream."
4. BERNSTEIN, LAURENTS AND SONDHEIM / "WEST SIDE STORY" -- Again, judging by Chase's track record, the smart money might better be placed on Ella Fitzgerald or R.L. Burnside or Led Zeppelin ("Gallows Pole," anyone?). Or perhaps, as a side bet, another cut from Scorsese's "Raging Bull": Say, Guglielmo Ratcliff's Intermezzo. But with an episode title like "Made in America," we'd love to see Chase quick-dip into the soundtrack of "West Side Story", what with the New York gang fight AND Shakespearean contexts -- not to mention a lead named Tony.
3. PINK FLOYD -- "Comfortably Numb" (the version off Scorsese's "The Departed") figured prominently this season. So Chase could go back to this well, if not "The Wall." But we're convinced he'll tap "Hey, You" because of: (a) its creepy sound capturing a mind off-kilter; (b) the lyric "Well, we've only got an hour of daylight left / better get started " (to the on-click of TV); and (c) again with the lyric "I'm coming home" (for full Chasean relevance, see "Stones, Moonlight Mile" above).
2. VAN MORRISON -- Based on past episodes, Chase quite likes Van the Man, from "Mystic Eyes" (with Them) to his newer duet-work on "Comfortably Numb" (see FLOYD, PINK above). So while we're again dealing with one enormo discography, we'll single out "Rough God Goes Riding." So Apocalyptic. So End Times. So, well, Yeatsian (Chase again favoring those Irishmen). (Lyrical needle-drops: "And it's a matter of survival / When you're born with your back against the wall" and "There'll be nobody hiding / When that rough god goes riding on in.")
1. BOB DYLAN -- In the top spot, it's gotta be Zimmy. But where-oh-where to begin from a man who's written and wailed it all. There's always "Joey," the gangster tale with the shootout in the clam bar (shades of "The Godfather"). But we'll go with (drumroll, please)... "Desolation Row". It lulls us, droning stanza after stanza, into some sort of quixotic dream-state, punctured by the killer chorus -- much like the show itself. Need proof, check the song's references. It's got the Bible (brother-to-brother murder and Noah's great rainbow), it's got Shakespeare (Meadow as Ophelia? And her moaning Romeo, Parisi?). It's got religion (the priest and the monk). Plus, it name-checks "all the agents" and "the superhuman crew." And it's got Chase's beloved "moon" references (the satellite nearly hidden). David Chase, you're far, far more skilled at filling the cinematic jukebox than us, obviously, but we beseech you: Let Tony's final walk be along desolation row.
Now it's your turn. Give us your verbal mixtapes. You spin, we'll listen. What songs should fill the finale? ...
-- Michael Cavna,
TV Editor, Style
Note: SPOILER ALERT: In today's TV Column, Lisa de Moraes discusses rumored endings for the series finale: Hey Don't Whack the Messenger
And, David Chase has given almost no interviews in recent weeks, but he made time for our Tom Shales. Be sure to check out Shales's story in Saturday's Washington Post. Plus, several staff writers script their dream finales for the show.
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