Richard Linklater’s films have become increasingly sophisticated as the 90s indie breakout writer-director has grown into his auteurhood. From the loose stoner vérité of Slackers (watch it online) to the loose but heady animation of Waking Life to the painstakingly meticulous “model of cinematic realism” of Boyhood, Linklater has a uniquely American vision and the undeniable talent to realize it in full.
But mostly when I think of Linklater, I think—excuse my language—of cock rock.
I think of Dazed and Confused’s super senior Wooderson, leaning against a muscle car, drawling “alright, alright, alright,” and cranking Aerosmith. I think of wild-eyed Jack Black in School of Rock, strapping a Gibson Flying V on an uptight, sweater-vested youth and teaching him Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” riff. And now, I think of a gang of short shorts-wearing college baseball dudes in the “campus bromance” Everybody Wants Some!!, singing along (above) to Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”…. wait…
So, okay, it ain’t all cock rock. But Linklater’s films are often so dude-centric, and so informed by popular music of certain eras, that he titled two of his most personal—Dazed and Confused and its recent “spiritual sequel”—after anthems from the two most archetypically cock rock bands, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen.
Where Dazed and Confused’s high school milieu more or less stayed anchored in 70s hard rock, Everybody Wants Some!!—like its comparatively adventurous college jocks—takes several musical detours from beer-and-babes 80s clichés. The film’s soundtrack, for example, includes “deep cuts” from Brian Eno, obscure local Texas punk rock band The Big Boys, and L.A.-based 80s New Wave/R&B band The Busboys.
It’s true, then, that the songs choices on Everybody Wants Some!!, which you can hear almost in their entirely (sans a few) above, are fairly diverse, genre-wise, compared to the cock-rock-heavy list of songs from Dazed and Confused (further up). And when it comes to Linklater’s musical inspirations for both films, we see that difference as well.
As the Criterion Collection blog documents—bringing us the 1992 letter above (read it here) from Linklater to his cast—the director put together “a thoughtful series of mixtapes to get his cast into the mind-set” of Dazed and Confused. And Criterion put together the Spotify playlist below of the songs Linklater gave his actors. As you’ll see, it’s mostly balls-to-the-wall hard rock, with some obligatory 70s disco and a few cuts from Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Elton John. In his accompanying letter, Linklater admits “a few of the songs are a little cheezy,” but also notes “there are a few places for ironic usage.” For the most part, he says, “this music… is like the movie itself—straightforward, honest and fun.”
When it came time to begin shooting Everybody Wants Some!! (get the official soundtrack here), Linklater again used the same method to get his cast in the mood, circulating the songs in the playlist below (though probably not on cassettes). Here we get a much more diverse, comprehensive musical summary of the decade in question, with Michael Jackson sitting next to Elvis Costello, Pat Benatar and Dire Straits next to Pink Floyd, Sister Sledge, Queen, and Chaka Khan.
It’s an interesting transition that may—musically—signal the move from teenage fandom to the more curious, adventurous listening habits of early adulthood. College, after all, is not only where young Americans of the modern era discover new sexual and chemical pleasures, but also where they acquire new musical tastes. And in the 80s especially, the boundaries of pop music expanded.
“That’s just how it felt to me to be a young person at that time. It was cool to be into everything,” Linklater commented to Cornelia Rowe at Yahoo: “There was a lot of newness in the era. You didn’t really appreciate it at the time – it’s like, there are all these new bands! There’s this new wave, punk, party, R&B – there’s a thing called rap music from New York!”
The athlete bros in Linklater’s latest, very male-oriented piece of cinematic nostalgia “at once embody and upend the stereotype of the shallow, sexually entitled jock,” writes A.O. Scott in his review. Roaming far afield of their comfort zones, they “have a good time wherever they are.” That’s pretty much guaranteed, I think, with the finely-curated 80s gems in these playlists as their soundtrack.
via the Criterion Collection