Original Format: CD
I feel like this flows pretty well, given that it goes from the 70s to the 50s to the 60s to the 90s and back to the 50s.
Are You Gonna Bark All Day, Little Doggie? Michael Madsen & Harvey Keitel
“Quentin Tarantino had been working at Video Archives, a video store in Manhattan Beach, California…. The title for the film came from a customer at the Video Archives, who requested Louis Malle’s 1987 film Au revoir les enfants, but mispronounced the title as ‘reservoir dogs.’” —Wikipedia
Stuck in the Middle with You Stealer’s Wheel
This song is about the music business (a.k.a. the Long Plastic Hallway), but fit easily into a movie about actual gangsters. They’re really kind of the same thing.
Bad Bad Leroy Brown Jim Croce
“One thing about ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ that’s rarely remarked-upon: It’s never specified, but it seems pretty obvious that Leroy Brown is black. He’s a stereotype, a slick Chicago gangster who chases women even when it’s not wise and who turns out to not be as tough as he thinks. The song has a sort of boogie-woogie blues beat; it sounds like white guys trying to sound black. Croce sings in a clumsy imitation of black English: ‘Now Leroy, he a gambler.’ It’s not that the song is racist, exactly. Standards were different in 1973, and there’s certainly no hostility in the way Croce sings the song. But it’s the sort of extended joke that would not go unexamined today.” —Tom Breihan, Stereogum
Stagger Lee Lloyd Price
Lloyd died just over a month ago, as of this writing, at the age of 88. He had quite the eventful life; his New York Times obituary is well worth a read. Among the things you will learn: “Dick Clark, the producer and host of the immensely popular television show ‘American Bandstand,’ decided that the lyrics of ‘Stagger Lee,’ which involved gambling and ended with a fatal barroom shooting, were too violent for his show. Mr. Price, ever the savvy businessman, recorded a new version in which the song’s rivals are fighting over a woman and make up at the end: ‘Stagger Lee and Billy never fuss or fight no more.’”
The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames
Bonnie and Clyde Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot
Both of these were recorded in 1968, but they take very different views of the famous crime couple. Georgie Fame is anti, saying that they were “the devil’s children” who, when “one brave man he tried to take ’em alone/They left him Iyin’ in a pool of blood/And laughed about it all the way home.” Gainsbourg (of course) takes the romantic view, casting sex kitten Brigitte Bardot as a breathy Bonnie. His version is based on a poem written by Bonnie Parker herself, which begins like this:
You’ve read the story of Jesse James
Of how he lived and died;
If you’re still in need
Of something to read,
Here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang,
I’m sure you all have read
How they rob and steal
And those who squeal
Are usually found dying or dead.
There’s lots of untruths to these write-ups;
They’re not so ruthless as that;
Their nature is raw;
They hate all the law
The stool pigeons, spotters, and rats.
They call them cold-blooded killers;
They say they are heartless and mean;
But I say this with pride,
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.
And ends like this:
They don’t think they’re too tough or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They’ve been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.
Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side;
To few it’ll be grief
To the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
Gangster Moderne MC Solaar
The English versions of these lyrics I looked up were rather muddled — they helpfully translate “marivaudage” as “marivaudage”1— but the gist seems to be that modern gangsters are the same as old-time ones, just with more zeroes in the numbers. There are references to Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Al Capone, Frank Nitty, and Eliot Ness; also Pablo Escobar, Manuel Noriega, Jesus, and Jean Bedel Bokassa, whoever that is. (Note: We would welcome applications for the post of interprète de chansons.)
Casino Pt. 2 DJ ’D
I don’t know much about DJ ’D, who did a couple of very nice albums right around the turn of the century/millennium, and the generic name renders him fairly unsearchable. Maybe it’s for the best that some mysteries remain.
My Lovin’ Is Digi The RZA as Bobby Digital
“It came from a really good bag of weed one day, right? I was in my studio. My birth name is Bobby Diggs. So at the time, creatively, I felt like I was in a digital frame. I felt like I was in high-speed, where everything was digital, in numbers, mathematics. I said to myself at the same time that as Bobby Digital, I could use a character to describe some of the earlier days of my own life. Partying, bullshitting, going crazy, chasing women, taking drugs. At the same time, I would mix in my love for comic books. It was a mixture of fiction and reality together to make a character I thought would be entertaining, and I could utilize that character to get fans into me as an MC, as a lyricist, and also following the path of my life. It’s like pre-RZA. It’s what The RZA struggles not to be, in a way, you know what I mean?” —The RZA
The Rep Grows Bigga Gang Starr
This track was assembled from a lot of constituent parts, including some of Gang Starr’s own songs, and every last piece is in microscopically precise position. It must have been a lot of work for DJ Premier, but it was worth it.
Forty-Four Howlin’ Wolf
“This hexagram indicates a situation in which the principle of darkness, after having been eliminated, furtively and unexpectedly obtrudes again from within and below…. This hexagram is linked with the fifth month [June–July] because at the summer solstice the principle of darkness gradually becomes ascendent again.” —The I Ching, Wilhelm-Baynes version, hexagram 44