Legendary director and prolific foot-fetishist Quentin Tarantino is notorious for starting every script by choosing its soundtrack. Before he puts a single word of his stylistic dialogue to paper, he’ll dig around in his record collection, pulling up sleeves that might allow him to access a particular character, scene, or theme.
This obsession with finding the perfect song has led to some of cinema’s most unforgettable moments. Take, for example, the scene in Pulp Fiction in which Uma Therman dances to Urge Overkill’s rendition of the Neil Diamond hit ‘Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon’. He is so specific about music choices that he’ll even include their names in the script.
For his film, Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino knew he needed something unforgettable, something to heighten the sleazy cool of that iconic opening shot in which the suited central characters walk away from a diner in slow motion. He needed something that captured the tone of the film, as well as the reckless, cash-hungry worldview of its characters.
For Tarantino, only one song would do both of those things, and that was ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd. The track comes from the band’s 1973 album Dark Side Of The Moon and is characterised by the way it utilises tape loops and samples of cash registers and the jungle of coins. These sound effects heighten the tracks’ underlying rhythm, one which – as Tarantino knew only too well – makes the song perfect to walk to.
Tarantino insisted that the track be used in the opening sequence, but Pink Floyd’s work is famously difficult to get the rights for. And even when they’ve allowed filmmakers to use one of their songs, they’ve charged a hell of a lot of money for it. But, although this was a concern, it wasn’t actually the reason Tarantino ended up ditching ‘Money’.
It was, in fact, the result of serendipity. Tarantino heard ‘Little Green Bag’ over the radio one day when Reservoir Dogs was in the middle of principal photography. As the track slid from the speaker, Tarantino was overcome by a wave of nostalgia and quickly ditched the idea of using ‘Money’. It was fortunate for the director because it’s unlikely Pink Floyd would have licensed the original track anyway, and the song he actually ended up using – by the George Baker Selection – gives the scene the slow, oozing cool which has made it so iconic.
Tarantino’s use of ‘Little Green Bag’ also showcases the director’s talent for taking rarities, B-sides, and obscure artists, and giving them new life through his films. ‘Money’ was already such a big hit that it would have felt ill-suited to Tarantino’s outsider sensibility. It is the slightly odd-ball tracks he has used which have always been the most iconic, and Pink Floyd are too much a part of the musical establishment to function in the way. Thank God for radio, that’s what I say.