Cars and music have long gone hand in leather-gloved hand. Experiments into installing audio equipment in automobiles go as far back as 1904 and by the 1940s there were 9 million car radios in circulation. Today cars are pimped out with all manner of hi-tech speaker gear so drivers can blast out their favourite music while cruising the open road.
In Nicolas Winding Refn’s slick and stylish Drive, music is front and centre, propelling the unnamed driver as he motors throughout a neon-lit Los Angeles. While many praised the film’s use of synth music, Drive was rescored with the director’s approval in 2014 by Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe, who gathered his favourite artists together over two years to create new music for the film. Now, music and film fans can finally experience the film on Blu-ray and DVD with the alternative Radio 1 soundtrack. To celebrate the new release of Drive, we’re looking back at some of the best movies which fuse music and high-speed metal.
TWO LANE BLACK-TOP (1971)
This 70s counterculture classic has some serious music credentials. The film stars legendary American singer-songwriter James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson as a pair of street racers cruising from town to town in a souped-up 1955 Chevrolet 210. Earning money from illegal drag racing, their easy lifestyle gets complicated after picking up a female hitchhiker from the side of the road and getting into a cross-country race with a rival driver. Surprisingly for a film starring two major musicians, the film’s music is kept on the back burner mixing in a low-key blend of rock, folk and blues, with tracks from The Doors and Kris Kristofferson. A real cult car hit, a tribute album to the film was released in 2003 featuring alt-favourites Sonic Youth, Cat Power and Wilco. Groovy.
John Carpenter’s 1983 horror Christine was based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name and tells the story of Arnie (Keith Gordon) who buys a 1958 Plymouth Fury called Christine, which possesses a malicious supernatural power – the car will kill or maim anyone who tries to harm it or its owner. Along with a soundtrack composed by Carpenter and Alan Howart, the film is chock full of evocative music from the 1950s and 1980s such as Johnny Ace, Little Richard and George Thorogood and the Destroyers. While this might not seem like the music of a killer car, Christine certainly conjures up a sinister atmosphere as it she ploughs through bodies small-town California aided by the dulcet tones of Buddy Holly. This is one car who’s bad to the bone!
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001)
In 2007, The Fast and the Furious spawned one of the most successful film franchises of all time, with eight films and one spin-off plus video games and even theme park attractions. In total the film series has taken a whopping $5bn at the global box office, making it the ninth highest grossing film series of all time. The first film followed a cop (played by the late Paul Walker) who infiltrates an underground group of car hijackers lead by none other than Vin Diesel (with that name, who could resist!). The film’s music featured a variety of urban hip-hop and RnB tunes from such characters as Ja Rule, R Kelly, Nate Dogg and Ashanti. The soundtrack album itself went platinum in 2002 in both the US and Canada. Just another fact that proves the enduring appeal of this nitro-injected franchise.
DEATH PROOF (2007)
Whether it’s scores lovingly plundered from the Italian horror films of Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci or pop and rock that brings to life his bombastic stories, music always plays a big part in Quentin Tarantino’s cinema. Death Proof, which formed part of the Grindhouse double-bill with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, starred genre veteran Kurt Russell as a serial killer who despatches his victims by driving his car at high speeds and then violently breaking, splatting their bodies on the windscreen. It also starred famed stuntwoman Zoe Bell as herself, who’s seen doing some rather dangerous stuff on the bonnet of the car. With Death Proof, Tarantino opted for a potent blend of ‘poliziotteschi’ Italian crime cinema soundtrack music from the likes of Stelvio Cipriani and classic driving numbers such as Jeepster by T.Rex. Prepare to step into the white hot juggernaut!
The critically acclaimed and ultra-stylish noir thriller Drive is back in the fast lane. Drive follows the thrilling story of a mysterious Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who shifts gear into a criminal getaway driver as night falls. Featuring an astounding mix of high art, gruesome violence, black humour and full-throttle action, Drive is a stylish modern masterpiece from director Nicolas Winding Refn. On its initial release the film was noted for its evocative use of pop tracks such as Nightcall by Kavinsky and a pulsing synth score from Cliff Martinez. And now in 2019, Drive is back so audiences can experience the film for the first with both the original soundtrack and the alternative BBC Radio 1 version, curated by Zane Lowe and featuring artists The 1975, Bastille, Bring Me The Horizon, Foals, CHVRCHES, Jon Hopkins, Pryda, The Neighbourhood, Banks, Baauer, Laura Mvula, SBTRKT and ZZC. Fasten your seatbelts!
BABY DRIVER (2017)
This fast-paced 2017 heist thriller built its high-octane action sequences around its giddy pop, rock and rap soundtrack to staggering audio-visual effect. The film follows young getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) who suffers from a chronic case of ear-ringing tinnitus. To escape the constant head-buzz, the prodigious driver pops in his ear buds and turns up the tunes as he works, burning rubber away from bank robberies to the sound of Queen, Blur, Martha & the Vandellas and more. Aware of possible cross-over with Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, another film set to feature extensive 70s rock references, director Edgar Wright consulted with his Guardians counterpart when choosing his tracks.