This week I’ve been loading up my Infinite Running Music playlist with music from movies. Sometimes life feels better when you think of it as a movie with you as the main character, and no more so than when you’re running, so why not provide the appropriate score?
I’ve been strict here; no well-chosen, Tarantino-esque cult rock and pop – this is stuff made up for films, mainly played by orchestras. I’ll do that kind of soundtrack another week – although, let’s face it, all you need is Trainspotting.
One thing – my ultimate film soundtrack running tune, which inspired me in my earliest days out round the park, is NOT ON SPOTIFY. Ouch. It’s David Shire’s theme from the original Taking of Pelham 123 – end title, for preference. Seek it out.
So, that classic notwithstanding, here’s Best of RDIRM – Movie Music:
Carter Takes A Train – Roy Budd
Some Get Carter to get us started; if I’m honest, this is a playlist of single suggestions – I prefer it when something huge and cinematic drops straight after Kylie or The Smiths. That said, this is a perfect kicker-offer. Well, Get Carter’s a great film, and hits the ground running with this, the sound of Carter’s train trip from London to Newcastle. Now it can help YOU hit the ground running. Just don’t indulge in any extreme violence upon your arrival.
North by Northwest – Bernard Herrmann
More opening titles to get you revved up. Herrmann’s overture for Hitchcock’s innocent-man-on-the-run classic is a thrill ride, and a nice demonstration that running music doesn’t need a four-four, foot-to-the-floor rhythm to get you going. The rhythm here is all over the place – in a good way. In the film it soundtracks what starts out as a blank screen and becomes a static shot of a building, and it’s much more exciting than it sounds – mainly because of the music.
Star Wars Main Title – John Williams
Of course. Star Wars’ main title is more than an overture – in fact, this arrangement plays over the closing credits in the film; it’s the entire film in microcosm, with all the excitement, heroism and flying around in space that implies. Listen to it and run a little faster. As I think I’ve mentioned before, a friend of mine who’s an excellent DJ once made me a tape that went straight from this into super-hard dance track Access. As my dancing daughter once shouted, THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
Treadstone Assassins – John Powell
This is from the Bourne Identity. I would have preferred to add To The Roof from The Bourne Supremacy, but that’s not on Spotify either. Well, the effect’s the same – montage sequence, tension build, steady groove. Music to make you feel like a superhuman assassin as you run, basically. When I run, some small part of me will always be Jason Bourne, trucking along by the sea in Goa at the beginning of the Bourne Supremacy. And when I feel like I can’t run like that, I have to remind myself that Matt Damon couldn’t either – not for very long, anyway. It’s pretend, Rob.
Spider-man 2 – Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman’s cartoon operatics – it was Tim Burton who originally showed us this side of Elfman, particularly on the Batman soundtrack – will never let you forget it’s all pretend. This is the sound of impossible feats conducted around the tops of skyscrapers seen from crazy angles. Again, the rhythms keep changing, and in this case the melody too – it’s a Russian Doll of a theme tune, pulling you constantly forwards to more excitement. I first heard it on a run high on a hill in Cyprus, and when I reached the edge of some cliffs over the Mediterranean, I was slightly tempted to fly off over it. Who knows; maybe I might’ve stayed up.
Enter The Dragon – Lalo Schifrin
Lalo Schifrin was a theme tune God long before John Williams, with stuff like Mission: Impossible, Bullitt and this huge, camp, classic. Bigger and more bombastic than his groovy TV stuff, this should help you along and make you smile as you go. If there’s no-one around, you could even pull a few Bruce Lee poses – as long as you don’t try to chop anything in half with your bare hands.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – John Barry
John Barry was famous for his James Bond music, but the iconic, twangy-riffed, gun-barrel opening theme wasn’t his tune, it was Monty Norman’s. This must have bothered him his whole life, but it also must have inspired him to create this banger, so for that we can be thankful. It’s the opening title music – preceded by George Lazenby’s ‘this never happened to the other fella’ – more exciting than any of those Shirley Bassey or, indeed, A-ha title sequence songs. But it’s even more memorable as the sound of the film’s superb ski chase. When I was small I could sing this for hours whilst making a small action figure whizz down an infinite mountain – a boon for my Mum and Dad in the days before tablets and the internet – and it still sounds great, all the hipper for its early electronic keyboard and chugging ’60s bass guitar. Nothing’s more inspiring on a run than imagining you’re being chased downhill by Kojak.
Time – Hans Zimmer
There’s skiing in Inception too, which is weird considering there’s no gravity in the dream the skiing dream is within – but let’s not get into that. This music is not technically particularly suited to running – it’s slow and sad, with some very low-key bits – but it’s simply fabulous music. The sound of pure drama. Never mind a run – you could brush your teeth to this and turn it into a transcendent experience. And when the orchestra goes all out, brass and everything, it’s almost too much. Almost.
The Imperial March – John Williams
Inception and Star Wars are both films which, without their respective orchestral soundtracks, would totally lack the depth and drama needed to pull off their audacious narrative ambitions. So here’s the other classic Star Wars theme – although you won’t hear it in Episode IV: A New Hope – John Williams wrote it for the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack. Playlist-wise, there’s a wit and a grit to it that earns it a third-quarter, keep-on-running position in this set. ‘Easier the Dark Side is. Faster.’
Chariots of Fire – Vangelis
Ah, go on then! This is pretty on-the-nose for me, but it would just be obtuse not to include it here. Even more than Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack, this is music to imagine you’re in slow motion to. IMAGINE you’re in slow motion, let me stress. I watched Chariots of Fire again recently – it really stands the test of time – filmic running inspiration, should you want it, although I’d wait until you’re back indoors to watch it.
Gollum’s Song – Emiliana Torrini
I like to think one day I will have a running machine in front of a huge TV, and sometimes stay home and run in front of a film – but running on a treadmill is so relentless and hard. My first forays into running were five minutes at a time on one at the gym, and to get myself through even that short amount of time I would need to visualise myself somewhere more dramatic; spiralling through the mist on some evil-looking mountain perhaps. This song from the end of The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers catches that. It’s not a finish-the-run song, it’s a keep-on-running, even-to-the-Cracks-of-Doom song – and if you do keep running through the dramatic sadness of Gollum’s Song (his singing voice is much nicer than his speaking voice, thanks to Emiliana Torrini), you’re rewarded with the empowering thrill of Howard Shore’s vaguely equine theme.
The Strength of the Righteous – Ennio Morricone
To finish, a step away from bombast towards the steady beats of rock and pop. The mighty Ennio Morricone’s fabulous, just-slightly-crazy soundtrack to Brian De Palma’s superb The Untouchables has the energy of his more famous western themes – matching the muscular machismo of the film – but also catches the gangster vibe with its jazzy instrumentation. It opens with this rhythmic tension builder that’ll make you feel like you’re being chased. In a good way.
And what a title. Get out there with these tunes, and you never know – you might feel the strength of the righteous yourself.