Cameron Crowe's Greatest Hits Part II (25-11)

A Marriage Between Music and Movies: Cameron Crowe's Greatest Hits

Today Anthony Kuzminski continues his countdown of Cameron Crowe's Top 50 'Greatest Hits' with Part II counting down No 25. to No. 11 of the best songs used in Crowe's films. You can read Part I HERE where we cover numbers 50 through 26. Here is Part II:

25. "…Passing By"- Ulrich Schnauss (Elizabethtown)
I had never heard of the German based electronic musician Ulrich Schnauss before his "...Passing By" popped up in Elizabethtown. After spending the entire night on the phone with one another (more on that later) Drew (Orlando Bloom) and Claire (Kristen Dunst) decide to drive half way right before dawn to meet one another. As their cars approach each other in the early morning mist, "…Passing By" plays in a relatively wraithlike instrumental hymn as it evokes the sound of sound of dawn as these two characters once again come face-to-face for their next quest. It's insertion in the film was so left field that if I had heard the song out of the framework of the film I am not sure it would have had the same force. Listen here

24. "Learning to Fly" – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Elizabethtown)
A few short scenes after "…Passing By" Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Learning to Fly" is cued up. As Claire and Drew depart for what they think may be the last time, they share parting looks that verge on devastating. Drew is beaten from the events of his life and even though she is a beacon of light, you can see in Claire's eyes that underneath that dreamy and bubbly appearance they're both lost, seeking something that seems unattainable. As Drew drives his car with "Learning to Fly" in the background, we're witness to the lush landscapes of the south. It's more than cinema eye-candy, but allowing Drew and the viewer to get lost in the moment. We encounter splendor each and every day but how often do we recognize it? In the depths of dejection we view the world differently and it's the minute things that leap out at us that we ignored dozens of times before. Petty tapped into an elixir of compassion allowing him to create in my estimation, his most paramount anthem. It's a song that may sound infinite to your ears when the going is good but will be a foundation of consolation when the going gets rough Listen here

23. "Magic Bus"/ "Getting in Tune"- The Who (Jerry Maguire)
I'm cheating here but these two songs are indivisible in the opening sequences of Jerry Maguire. On the commentary track Crowe talks about how producer James L. Brooks encouraged him to begin the film where every other 1980's movie ended- in triumph. We see Jerry maneuver his way smoothly through large crowds, negotiations and his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants career. He's a star, a dynamo and on top of the world much like the Who in 1970 when this cut of "Magic Bus" was recorded and eventually released on Live at Leeds. Someone one day should make a list of the greatest live rock n' roll bands at their peak and if you throw longevity and financial considerations out the window, you would be hard pressed to find any band that was as explosive and invigorating than the Who from 1969-1974. Coming off Live at Leeds, Townshend had a bit of a breakdown trying to create something more audacious than Tommy with Lifehouse which led to a near mental breakdown by Townshend. The songs eventually found their way onto the Who masterwork Who's Next but to Townshend it was something that didn't reach the heights he hoped for. Jerry Maguire had reached the top and yet something inside pulled at him almost as a reminder that he'd taken his eyes off the ball. There were two people within yanking at his soul and out of it comes a mission statement ("The Things We Think and Do Not Say") which sets his life towards an alternate detour. "Getting in Tune" with its pensive piano, John Entwhistle's tingling bass and Daltry's ache exemplifies the scene and Maguire's state of mind. The song flows over into the copy shot scene where Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains makes an unforgettable cameo where he hands Maguire a mockup of his mission statement by telling him "That's how you become great man, you hang your balls out there". Crowe, Maguire and Townshend each did just that and it came together vividly here in this opening sequence. Listen here

22. – 21."Heaven" –Rolling Stones / "Good Vibrations"-Beach Boys (Vanilla Sky)
The penultimate act in Crowe's mind twisting Vanilla Sky finds Cruise, in his current masked state, waking up from what appears to be a ghastly dream. "Heaven" is a sublime Rolling Stone track is from 1981's Tattoo You and it seduces your mind into believing something isn't right and before the big disclosure at the end. Shortly thereafter, The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" takes you deep into the vortex of the movie's heart in a stunning, heart-racing and enlightening finale. The direction and editing of this fastidious scene are cosmic and gleeful and may be the Beach Boys finest moment. Listen here and here

20. – 17. The Elizabethtown Road Trip
Elizabethtown culminates in one of cinema's most luminous and liberating road trips. Claire encourages Drew to make the trip from Kentucky back home to Oregon with his father's ashes beside him in a detailed map full of mix discs, notes for where to stop and alternate routes that drag our reluctant souls into the present. The sequence is shot with restrained elegance and is resplendently accentuated with song-after-song in a deluge of music rarely seen in film. There are over a dozen songs in this sequence and never once do you feel a certain song goes on too long, if anything, I wish certain road scenes were elongated. U2 and Ryan Adams also make appearances in the extensive sequence and it was hard not to include them here, especially the pining optimism of Adam's acoustic guitar on "Words" and "English Girls Approximately", but the four songs below (along with the previously listed "My Father's Gun" by Elton John) are the emotional centerpiece of the film's climax.

20. "Hard Times (Come Again No More)" by eastmountainsouth
"Hard Times" is still being covered 150-years after originally being written by Stephen Foster with recent renditions by Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. The band eastmountainsouth's version can be heard at the end of Elizabethtown. The duo and their autumn harmonies linger in the air as they unite on both the verses and choruses. They sound like a gospel choir eviscerating the dread that soils our spirit …and there are only two of them. We've all experienced an emotional holocaust of some kind. Something so demoralizing it threatens to steal a part of who we are. We're faced with darkness and the walls are closing in on us. We've sunk to our lowest but then out of nowhere something or someone comes to the rescue. As Drew begins the road trip, he's only then coming to terms with his life, his family and the death of his father and this sequence is a purging of all within. Listen here

19. "Sugar Blue"- Jeff Finlin
After allowing himself five-minutes to wallow in the misery of his failure where in a voice over Claire tell him "You have five-minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard it…and proceed", Drew charges forward and the first song played is "Sugar Blue". The song induces images in me of people trying to catch up to railroad cars from a century back while Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is finding his way back to living life. The dreamy mid-tempo number refreshes the palette and steers us back on the road to redemption. Listen here

18. "Don't I Hold You"-Wheat
A power pop sensibility is built into Wheat's "Don't I Hold You" and it radiates a winking yearning. It's a sun-drenched song where a little chime makes sporadic visits. The music is exultant while it slowly glides into a glorious vocal upsurge. It's vibrant and it leaps out as Drew continues his drive with an onward thrust of optimism. Listen here

17. "Square One" –Tom Petty (Elizabethtown)
Tom Petty gave Crowe "Square One" nearly a year before it appeared on his aptly titled 2006 solo record Highway Companion."Square One" with its reserved arrangement focusing on the acoustic guitar and his affectionate and reedy voice, appears at a pivotal point in the trip as it features Drew following Claire's detailed instructions to dance with "one hand waving free". His dance is fluid, free, and ridiculous and yet it hearkens to the failures of our past and points us to a future that is unwritten. This is all highlighted with elegiac lyrics from Petty proving he still has many stories to tell. Listen here

16. "Gathering Stories" – Jónsi (We Bought A Zoo)
We Bought A Zoo features a truly exceptional and eclectic score by Jónsi, the lead singer and guitarist for Sigur Rós. It seemed peculiar to me on paper, but his inconspicuous score slowly winds and weaves itself around you. As the film drew to a Capraesque ending, I sat there with tears flowing down my cheeks. I'll reserve the reasons why in a more detailed review of the film, but it hit me hard. The song is co-written by Crowe and in the concluding scene of the movie, Jónsi's score comes full circle in one of the greatest closing scenes I've ever seen in any film. I will not back away from that statement. This song's inclusion on this list is a deeply personal choice, but Jónsi and Sigur Rós have barely been on my radar but the strength of the score and this song gives me enough to go on to discover more and it heightens the significance of the film and gives implication to the enduring quote used in the film; "some times all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage". Listen here

15. "IO (This Time Around)" – Helen Stellar (Elizabethtown)
A simple plodding bass line aligns with your heartbeat in a flashback scene from Elizabethtown where Drew (Orlando Bloom) reminisces about his father. The heartbeat bass and angelic vocal tears right through you as the slow motion scene that is full of elation and melancholy. Life lesson; appreciate those close to you while they are alive, don't put things off, take action and share experiences while everyone is alive. When I think back to my childhood, my bedroom, my backyard and the experience of life unfolding in front of me, I see me, my sister, my mother and father and I hear this song. Crowe's films make ordinary lives seem extraordinary. Listen here

14. -12. The Singles Trilogy
I refer to the three songs below as the Singles trilogy. Crowe doesn't just use music well within films but he often revisits certain songs later in the film to unite the sentiments and journeys of the characters at hand. These three songs make recurring visits to the screen throughout the film and I had to group them together. I felt these three made the utmost impact where it truly added authentic dimension to not just the story arc but genuine nature of each character.

14. "Seasons" – Chris Cornell (Singles)
Chris Cornell has been graced with one of the greatest and more versatile voices in all of rock. His acoustic guitar is restrained here and its' repeated use throughout the film seeps its way unconsciously. His longing acoustic plays in faultless contrast to the buoyant plucking of Westerberg's score. Listen here

13. "Waiting for Somebody" – Paul Westerberg (Singles)
Westerberg scored the film with sprightly acoustic nuggets throughout but it was his return to the acoustic chords of "Waiting for Somebody" that resonate strongest. "Dyslexic Heart" was the hit and the music video, but his humming and strumming throughout the film hearken back to "Waiting for Somebody" and the film's theme of simply wanting to find someone to share your life with. You could switch up many of the songs in the film in different scenes but I couldn't imagine the film without his alternative and rootsy coffee shop touch. Listen here

12. "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns" – Mother Love Bone (Singles)
Mother Love Bone should have been the first Seattle band to break through. We all know the story about Andrew Wood's tragic passing and how Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament went on to form Pearl Jam. One bit of trivia many are unaware of but this song can briefly be heard in Say Anything… in the apartment scene following graduation. It introduces Joan Cusack and her young son. This is the track that Lloyd Dobbler (Cusack) raises the volume on the stereo past the red line on but is warned that the red line exists because that's how high it can go without having the neighbors complain. Three years later "Chloe Dancer/ Crown of Thorns" wound up being one of the most vital songs in Singles. If Crowe only had one song to utilize throughout the entire film, this would have been it. There's an underlining sense of desire in most of the film's scenes where all any of the characters want to do is find "the one". We first hear the tender piano chords of "Chloe Dancer" early on in a scene with Kyra Sedgwick that turns into anguish minutes later. But then there's the Campbell Scott and Jim True car ride where they're in search of a rock club and pick up a few people for the ride including Eric Stoltz in a mime outfit. The search continues. Towards the end the song once again appears. If I had to pick one song that defines Singles it would probably be "Chloe Dancer/ Crown of Thorns" with "Waiting for Somebody" a close second. Listen here

11. Nancy Wilson's scores in Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky & Elizabethtown
There are no words to exemplify the enormity Nancy Wilson's scores play in Crowe's films. They began on a less significant scale for Say Anything and Jerry Maguire but beginning with Almost Famous and continuing through Vanilla Sky and lastly with Elizabethtown, her music is as fundamental to the overall scope of the film as any James Williams string crescendo housed in Steven Spielberg's films. While her songs are nowhere near as ostentatious as most of the established songs on this list, her music is placed at truly pivotal scenes in the respective films. Jerry Maguire found her stretching beyond the realm of rock and pop music and on Almost Famous, besides writing and performing some of the Stillwater tunes, she gave us Lucky Trumble which is childlike in nature and the music attached to the airport scene where William Miller and Penny Lane part is delightfully wistful. On Vanilla Sky, her acoustic tingles find the characters at true crossroads, haunting them like a ghost from the past. Elizabethtown, the only film for which her entire score was released, her guitar chords are heard throughout and as the screen fades to black we hear the final notes of the breathtaking "River Road". If you haven't seen it, I will not spoil it for you, but it's as affectionate and consoling as any hug you will ever receive. "60B" is as splendid as any other song in Elizabethtown but you probably didn't even realize it. Nancy Wilson is the unsung hero of Crowe's films. Remove her striking wall of organic instrumentation and each film loses a hefty segment of what characterizes them. Listen here

Be sure to return to discover Cameron Crowe's final ten greatest hits.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter

Cameron Crowe's Greatest Hits Part II (25-11)

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