Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost's 4... 8... 15 Best Songs

So, Lost has wrapped up, once and for all, leaving a gaping hole where my Tuesday night used to be (or Thursday night, or Wednesday night …). But before letting go and walking toward the big, white light outside of St. Eloise’s cathedral, I wanted to pay tribute to the music of this challenging, but ultimately rewarding piece of work.

I know, I know. This is a blog about movies and music, and Lost was on the tee-vee. Well, yes, but it was also among the most cinematic shows ever made for television, starting with the giant plane crash site from the two-hour pilot. And I would argue that Michael Giacchino’s somber, rhythmic and altogether epic score helped elevate the series to filmic levels.

Of course Lost’s excellent, yet sparing, use of pop music helped, too. The series even invented a few rock bands, most notably Charlie Pace’s one-hit wonder, Drive Shaft – although the Dharma folks would make a case for the hippie groove of Geronimo Jackson.

Some tunes barely registered (it wasn’t until I checked out that I remembered that “Carrie Anne” underscored young Charlie’s pool scene and “Dream Police” was playing when Hurley purchased his “I (Heart) My Shih Tzu” shirt) but many others were the soundtrack to key turning points in Lost.

Here are my 15 favorites from six seasons:

“You All Everybody,” Drive Shaft (Seasons 1, 2, 3, 6)

Armed with lyrics ripped from an episode of Donahue, Charlie and Liam Pace’s fictional Britpop band conquered the world, at least temporarily. The loose re-write of Oasis’ “Rock n Roll Star” is the only song to be featured in four or more seasons of Lost, having been sung by Charlie, played by the whole band, reworked for a diaper commercial and heard on the radio. Its nonsense lyrics (“acting like you’re stupid people / wearing your ’spensive clothes”) were given actual meaning in the final season, when they commented on Desmond before his sideways world awakening.

“I Shall Not Walk Alone,” The Blind Boys of Alabama (Season 1)

This one sticks out because it’s one of the few examples of Lost employing a song without giving it an onscreen source (i.e. the Swan’s turntable, Hurley’s Discman). But it’s a stirring use of a soulful song, playing as Sayid sets off to walk the beach and Sawyer wrestles with his ever-present past. The lyrics also spoke one of the show’s central themes: “Live together, die alone.”

“Make Your Own Kind of Music,” Mama Cass (Seasons 2, 3)

The trick to the opening of Lost’s second season was that it fooled us flashback-minded viewers into thinking we were way in the past. And this Mama Cass gem helped pull the wool over our eyes. Turns out we were in the present-day Swan station with Desmond, following his morning routine (hit the button, put on some Mama Cass, pour some coffee, inject some phony medicine, etc.). Then the hatch blew, the record screeched to a halt and Desmond became an integral character in the storyline.

“Moonlight Serenade,” Glenn Miller Orchestra (Seasons 2, 3)

In a music-rich season, this slinky Glenn Miller tune might barely register. But, heard by Hurley and Sayid on the Arrow’s radio, it signified elements of time travel that wouldn’t become clear until way later in Season 5. Yes, the tortured torturer and lottery winner were actually hearing a broadcast from the ’40s, just like the guy in the “Static” episode of The Twilight Zone. The Miller reference also is apropos because the bandleader went missing during a flight from Britain to Paris in 1944, and neither his body nor plane were ever discovered. So, somewhere in time, Glenn Miller might be battling a smoke monster.

“Walkin’ After Midnight,” Patsy Cline (Seasons 2, 3)

If some of the Kate-centric episodes became a drag over the course of the series, at least you always knew you were going to hear some Patsy Cline. “What Kate Did” – one of the better Kate hours – was the first to feature this song, played on the Swan’s turntable while she attends to an injured Sawyer. It showed up twice more, including on the radio of a tow truck.

“He’s Evil,” The Kinks (Season 2)

Sung a cappellla on the island by Charlie (to an unappreciative Jin) before turning up as background music in brother Liam’s apartment, this ’74 Kinks boogie-rocker could refer to the duplicitous nature of a dozen Lost characters. In the Pace brothers storyline, it certainly could fits with Liam, who always was willing to lead big brother Charlie to temptation.

“Catch a Falling Star,” Perry Como (Seasons 2, 5, 6)

Lost’s Blue Velvet moment. The show took this innocuous Como hit, tied it to Aaron and Claire (first heard on the airplane mobile), then turned it on its head during the final season. In “Sundown,” captive Claire rocks back and forth, mumbling it to herself in her Silence of the Lambs hole. Then, an even spookier version of the song underscores the aftermath of the temple attack. It’s the soundtrack for slo-mo, dead-eyed zombie Sayid. Shudder.

“Pushin’ Too Hard,” The Seeds (Season 2)

If memory serves, this ’60s nugget was a Locke pick for the Swan stereo in Season 2. It offered a simple commentary on what the castaways were doing to “Henry Gale” (Ben). No matter how hard they pushed, he wasn’t going to give in … just keep eating his cereal. We found out in subsequent seasons how Ben’s frequent beatings only seemed to empower him.

“Downtown,” Petula Clark (Season 3)

Another season opener, another strange character, another unfamiliar place, another fabulous musical sequence. This time, a vintage pop hit is juxtaposed against Juliet’s obvious sadness and frustration with being stuck on the island. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. We were simply watching a sad woman trying to cheer herself up and burning the muffins anyway. A book club and a plane crash soon followed.

“Shambala,” Three Dog Night (Season 3)

You can argue with the “Hurley fixing the van” storyline in “Tricia Tanaka is Dead,” but the second he gets that Dharma van to turn over is one of the most celebratory scenes in the series. By way of the rumble of a VW engine and the howls of Three Dog Night, Hurley has washed away his troubles and made his own luck. What a gleeful moment. Later, we learn about the van and “Roger Workman.” Turns out that Ben chose the Three Dog Night 8-track tape as the perfect accompaniment for killing his dad. That moment … a little less gleeful. Well, not for Ben.

“Gouge Away,” The Pixies, and “Scentless Apprentice,” Nirvana (Seasons 3, 4)

The soundtrack to angry, lost, weirdy-beardy Jack. And what perfect choices these are – rage-filled for sure, but also smart and clever with buried melodies. Jack’s not dead (like “Jeremy Bentham”); his soul’s just covered in muck. But he can still sniff out the right trail, even if he’s been rubbing a bad charm with holy fingers.

“Shotgun Willie,” Willie Nelson (Season 5)

One last season opener in the “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and “Downtown” molds. Our introduction to the real Dr. Pierre Chang (and ’70s Dharmaville) is vintage Willie Nelson, as Chang takes care of the baby and gets ready for work. Of course, the skipping record also foreshadowed the time-travel craziness to come.

“Ride Captain Ride,” The Blues Image (Season 5)

OK, so this one’s a bit of a throwaway, but I can’t think of a better soundtrack choice than this, as we watch our heroes become one with the ’70s and the hippie-dippy vibe of Dharmaville. Namaste.

“Search and Destroy,” Iggy & The Stooges (Season 6)

Pop music was in short supply in Lost’s final season (what with The Answers, and all), but we got a little bit of Raw Power when Smokey recruited the bandit. Even without the lyrics, it’s a good tune for a whirling dervish of black smoke. Plus, in the end, Smokey sorta turned out to be a “runaway son


  1. Great stuff, Bryan. The Glenn Miller scene is one of my favorites in the show. One or both of the Darlton team worked on "Sweet Dreams" which explains the Patsy Cline connection.

  2. I'm a fan of (I think) Hank Williams' "Are You Sure This Is Where You Wanna' Be?" in season one after the caves vs. beach split. I agree the Blind Boys scored the best on screen non-fictional moment.