There’s a lot to be said about the expert use of music in cinema. Of course, for most avid cinephiles, this is not news, but it’s always worth taking a closer look at those directors who champion the use of pop music to enhance their films and the experience of the audience watching. Of course, one of the greatest auteurs of his generation, Quentin Tarantino, is famed for his expert choices regarding music. Whether it was the “sound of the seventies” that permeated the entire story of Reservoir Dogs or the complete soundtrack from Pulp Fiction which is arguably one of the greatest compilation albums ever made — Tarantino loves music.
Though his choices for his films are, by and large, dictated by the narrative at hand (though we’re pretty sure he could squeeze a sixties anthem into just about any story he wanted), what are the albums and songs that make up his record collection? Moreover, what album would he label as his favourite of all time? Luckily, we have the answer, and it’s a bonafide classic of the highest proportions.
“One of the things I do when I am starting a movie,” the acclaimed director once said when noting his process for creating some of pop culture’s most beloved films. “When I’m writing a movie or when I have an idea for a film is, I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie. Then, ‘boom,’ eventually I’ll hit one, two or three songs, or one song in particular, ‘Oh, this will be a great opening credit song’,” Tarantino once explained.
When looking through Tarantino’s long-ranging career, and the ten films he’s delivered thus far, it’s hard to avoid the impact music has had on his impressive canon and how, with their unique style and pace, those songs have been equally as vital in establishing the director’s iconography: “To me the opening credits are very important because that’s the only mood time that most movies give themselves. A cool credit sequence and the music that plays in front of it, or note played, or any music ‘whatever you decide to do’ that sets the tone for the movie that’s important for you.
“So I’m always trying to find what the right opening or closing credit should be early on when I’m just even thinking about the story. Once I find it, that really kind of triggers me in to what the personality of the piece should be what the rhythm of this piece should be.” It’s one of the more candid viewpoints you will hear from a director, noting how definitively music can influence the story.
In an interview with Uncut, when noting his ten favourite albums of all time, the director produced some unique choices, picking out two albums from Phil Ochs and paying tribute to some of the sixties and seventies more obscure acts. There is, however, one album that ranks as his absolute favourite of all time — Bob Dylan’s seminal 1975 LP Blood on the Tracks.
The record is a favourite among many Dylan aficionados, and when speaking with Uncut, Tarantino confirmed: “This is my favourite album ever. I spent the end of my teenage years and my early twenties listening to old music–rockabilly music, stuff like that. Then I discovered folk music when I was 25, and that led me to Dylan.
“He totally blew me away with this. It’s like the great album from the second period, y’know? He did that first run of albums in the Sixties, then he started doing his less troublesome albums – and out of that comes Blood On The Tracks. It’s his masterpiece.”
The director connects with Dylan on another level too, using his career as a jumping-off point for dealing with his own growing legacy. Asked by Vulture if he was nostalgic for the ’90s, Tarantino noted Dylan’s later resurgence as an inspiration: “I’m not, even though I think the ’90s were a really cool time. It was definitely a cool time for me. But almost like how Bob Dylan had to survive the ’60s so he could be not just considered an artist of the ’60s, I had to survive the ’90s so that when VH1 does their I Love the ’90s thing, they wouldn’t mention me. I think the jury was out about that for a while. But if I am going to be nostalgic about the ’90s, it’s for the lack of everybody being connected to all this technology all the time”.
We’re sure Dylan’s consistent refusal to be pigeonholed, his lack of awareness for the critics around him, and his desire always to push himself creatively have all worked to inspire Tarantino in his own line of work. But perhaps none more so than the seminal album from 1975.
Below, get a taste of that inspiration and revisit Quentin Tarantino’s favourite album of all time, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks.