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Since they first came onto our screen back in 2014, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy have become a household name, one of the best parts of the biggest franchise in the world and has launched its director into stardom. Not bad for a ragtag bunch of misfits who were fairly unknown outside the comic world.
Due to the era in which the main character grew up, the films are chocked full of classic “dad rock” music, which is soft rock with an upbeat feel. James Gunn has a large say on the music selected, and it is clear from his subsequent work on the Suicide Squad projects for DC that he has a knack of selecting lesser known songs and making them fit the themes of his films.
Having watched all 3 movies, as well as the Suicide Squad media, I think my music taste is at a point where I can create my own musical composition of forgotten hits which would be a perfect backdrop for the shenanigans of everybody’s favourite adopted space family.
The most important scenes to frame the music with is, of course, the action — after all, they are action movies, so these are the most popular scenes. You need to have fun, light-hearted rock with enough kick, nothing too heavy where it overshadows the dialogue and nauseates the viewer, but nothing too light where it dampens the mood. Classic blues rock like AC/DC and metal bands like Metallica to me don’t work, because these bands tend to play slower, stronger rock. This was probably the hardest to narrow down, but I tried to choose songs which are lesser known, even if the acts are mainstream.
Firstly, Fool for the City is quite a flamboyant, classic rock song by Fog Hat you would listen to on a summer day, or on a drive. It also features a very cool riff at the end of the song, which could lead to a big finale at the end of the fight.
Let It Go is a lesser known song by Def Leopard, who have plenty of songs worthy of this list. The verses are quite calm, and explode into the chorus, which I think would lend well to the slow build that many fights in the MCU tend to have.
Sammy Hagar’s I Can’t Drive 55 is about, well, being chased by the police for speeding. Naturally, then, this would be perfect for a chase, maybe a run-and-gun affair or simply evading capture or being killed. It also features a slight pause in the chorus between “I can’t drive… 55”, which would be a great time for a jump or a slow motion shot.
You could say that Modern Day Cowboy was made for a character like Star-Lord, who seems himself as a bit of a gunslinger. I mean, his main weapons are two space pistols! Similar to my last point, Tesla’s 1986 track has the words “Bang, Bang!” repeated multiple times in the chorus, which could be synced to shots from Rocket/Peter Quill for style points.
Coming from Missisisipi’s 1971 sophomore album, Don’t Look Around is not a very well known song, therefore making it perfect for this section. What else makes it perfect? The fact the song is filled with head banging, slick licks which make you want to air guitar. It would fit the vibes of the Guardian’s adventures perfectly.
Another important aspect about these movies is space. As the film takes place in it, and is a key plot device in taking the heroes from point A to point B, they are arguably some of the more vital scenes, as they need to grab the viewer to keep them invested. I chose 3 songs which are all pretty lowkey, 80s sleeper tracks.
We start off with Steal Away by Robbie Dupree. This easily could have found itself on the “happy” section further down, however I feel like some of the lighter space travel could be suited to this track. An upbeat and sweet love song, it features a synthesizer, a guitar, a keyboard and even a harmonica played by Mr Dupree. It is a punchy, smooth track perfect for the gang to start the movie.
Keeping the smooth vibes going, we move to Casablanca by Dane Donohue. This song features some pretty tight electric guitar, which is laced throughout the track. It is a little more heavy than the last track, but the lyrics talk about this perfect place for the singer, so maybe if Peter is heading back to Earth or heading to a mystical land, the lyrics would fit the atmosphere. Also, look out for the cool xylophone portion at the end!
To finish this section, we have a Smooth Radio classic, How Long by Ace. The biggest hit from this UK formed band, the 1974 track features a melt-in-your-mouth baseline, a guitar solo, and a choir of harmonised voices coming in at the chorus. The silkiest of the three tracks, and with a sad underlying message, this would be a good track at the ‘complication’ part of the movie, maybe one of the Guardians is taking a deal from a not-so-nice guy, or a new friend turns enemy…
Now, for the heavy stuff. Every Guardians film so far features a sadder song, whether it is a character death, a low moment or a sad goodbye. Therefore, this one song needs to be perfect, and I think this one is perfect.
Jim Croce’s I’ll have to say I love you in a song is a beautiful song, a soft country ballad dedicated to his ex wife as an apology. The fact it released just after Croce died in a plane crash makes it all the more poignant. It runs short, falling under the 2 minute 30 second mark, but who likes a dragged out goodbye anyway? This could be a character farewell, a death or even just be another happy song, depending on what the mood dictates.
This may be the hardest section to write. In previous Guardians films, all songs tend to be positive and cheery, however it is choosing the right songs. I am currently in an old country phase, so my choices reflect that.
Up first, we have You Ain’t Going Nowhere by The Byrds. I did not realise this was not their song, but actually Bob Dylan’s, written a year prior. However, it does not take away from how good this mid to late 60s country song is. The harmonisation on the chorus, and the toe tapping element of this song gives it the perfect feel for a Guardians movie. Hell, it could probably be in the space section.
My second choice is Mr Bojangles by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, another cover of another artist’s song. Based on a street performer the original artist met, the song is quintessential country, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are a major example of the beauty of old school country rock. This would be a good time for a montage or to be the closer of the film.
My final part of song selection is for the suit up/slow motion group walk. These are a staple of the Guardians brand, with Cherry Bomb by The Runaways being the slow motion walk in Guardians 1 and The Chain by Fleetwood Mac being the same style for the first sequel. The fact I can remember these details shows how memorable these scenes can be, when done right. This includes choosing the right backing track.
Billy Squier’s Lonely is the Night is the first port of call for this area. The first 30 seconds of this track features guitar and singing alone, which would be when the Guardians are collecting their weapons and gear for the next mission. The drums kicking in at the 30 second mark would be the cut to the slow motion walk down a hallway or across a battlefield. This song was one of the reasons I wanted to write this article, because I think it would fit so well.
My backup option is Strutter by Kiss. Originally, this featured in my action section, which it most definitely could. However, I believe the fact the song refers to the swagger of a walk being a ‘strut’, mixed with the groove-ability of the track, means it would also work pretty well when the Guardians re-team up at the end of the film, due to being separated before.
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