PART FOUR: BEST. SOUNDTRACK. EVER?
By Ryan J. Downey
“The Crow” soundtrack is quite possibly the greatest alt-rock compilation assembled in the ’90s. Coupled with Graeme Revell’s hauntingly moving score, bands like The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Machines Of Loving Grace perfectly complimented the movie’s dark and romantic themes.
Even the bands who contributed cover songs selected material that lined up well with the flick, intentionally or not. Nine Inch Nails covered “Lost Souls,” by one of The Crow creator James O’Barr’s favorite bands, Joy Division. Rollins Band did a version of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” about the Marvel hero. Pantera’s take on “The Badge” was even more savage than the original by punk legends Poison Idea.
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult and Medicine both appear in the film. And of course, Eric Draven’s background was enhanced by making him a musician (Brandon Lee even learned to play guitar).
It’s impossible to imagine “The Crow” without this soundtrack and certainly several films attempted to follow suit in the movie’s wake, with varying degrees of success. “The Crow” music supervisor Jolene Cherry went on to put together 1995’s “Batman Forever” soundtrack with artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Deal Real Estate, The Flaming Lips, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Mazzy Starr.
The music in “The Crow” was an undeniable component in the perfect storm of events that lined up to ensure the movie would connect in deep and intimate ways with an intensely devoted group of people.
Jeff Most (Producer): I wanted every song in the movie to be original, unreleased, born of the film. I was considered a crackpot for doing that at the time. Soundtracks were made up of hits, regurgitated top 40 collections. And the songs that were done for the film were not, at the time, the kinds of songs that were put out as singles. I wanted to create this world on camera and with the music in the film.
The first person I asked to join the soundtrack was [Nine Inch Nail’s] Trent Reznor. I knew he’d never done anything for a movie. I met with Trent at his house. It was the [Roman] Polanski house, where Sharon Tate was murdered. We spent the afternoon together. He really liked my music taste. We had mutual favorite bands together. We got on really well.
I had brought him the idea of covering a Joy Division track because the original comics were dedicated to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. Subsequently, in later printings, they were dedicated to Brandon Lee. James O’Barr was very influenced by Joy Division lyrics, even while he was a Marine in Berlin, drawing Marine Manuals, doing the comics.
Robert Smith [and The Cure] had never done anything for a movie or TV show, either. James O’Barr had used lyrics from The Cure in the comic books but it turned out he has just written ’used with permission’ but had never actually gotten permission. But Robert’s manager said he was actually very honored when he read the comic. He agreed to do a song for the movie.
Page Hamilton (Helmet): I thought Brandon Lee being in the movie was really cool, because I loved Bruce Lee, though I didn’t know anything about his son. They talked to us about being in the movie but our schedule wouldn’t permit it. The scene with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, that scene.
We shot a video with [director] Alex Winter [also know as an actor from ’The Lost Boys’ and the ’Bill & Ted’ movies] with footage from the movie. I thought for a video incorporating movie footage, Alex did an amazing job. It’s one of my favorite videos to this day.
Mike Lewis (For Love Not Lisa): I think we were the only band on that soundtrack where nobody knew who we were. Everyone else was already proven. We knew it was a Brandon Lee movie and that our song would be in it. We were thinking, ’OK, crappy kung-fu movie nobody will ever see.’ But after we saw some of the storyboards, we were like, ’Wow, this movie is like a dark version of “Batman.”’ We pulled over on tour and called our managers and were like, ’We have to be on this thing!’
It was certainly the highlight of our band’s entire career. We had nothing but problems and issues; every bad thing that can happen to a band who signs to a major label happened to us.
I have a double platinum record on my wall, in my office at the Internet company I co-own. I always joke with people that I don’t think my band sold a single one of those albums.
Jeff Most: Originally, Stone Temple Pilot’s contribution to the soundtrack was going to be a song called “Only Dying,” a darkly satiric song mocking death. ’It’s no big deal, I’m only dying,’ that type of thing. When Brandon was lost months later in the tragic accident, they recognized the obvious lack of humor and that the song was now inappropriate. Some months later, they gave us a demo of ’Big Empty.’ I was like, ’Oh, my God, we are so blessed, this is an even better and more brilliant song for us.’
What unfortunately happened with ’Big Empty,’ by virtue of the delayed timing of the film’s release, was that the song screwed up Atlantic Records and Stone Temple Pilots’ single plans for their new album by becoming a massive radio hit. KROQ in Los Angeles was the first radio station to pick it up. The band was actually asking radio programmers not to play ’Big Empty’ because they had a different single coming.
But the soundtrack to ’The Crow’ took on a life of its own.
Page Hamilton: I was in Sweden a couple of months ago, with insomnia, and ’The Crow’ was on TV. I saw the last hour of it for the first time in years and it was just awesome. I still love it. You have a really great good guy and a really great bad guy in that movie. Michael Wincott [“Top Dollar”], the guy is fantastic. He’s just such a brilliant, evil guy in ’The Crow.’ And Brandon Lee is such a great guy. There’s a calm about him. Physically, he’s a very attractive, beautiful guy. Clear lines are drawn between good vs. evil. I think the adaptation was really well done. I’m very glad we were part of it.
Come back to Splash Page tomorrow for the next chapter in our week-long look at “The Crow,” its origins and legacy. Here’s what we’ve covered already: