20 Old Songs Wes Anderson Gave New Life: A Playlist


Just as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel finally hits theaters, there comes the news that the exquisite soundtracks for all of his films will be released as a fancy box set by ABCKO Records later this year. This feels like the perfect moment to revisit Anderson’s soundtracks, helmed by his longtime music supervisor Randall Poster and often highlighting gems from the ’60s and ’70s.

Many of these songs are so deeply embedded in certain scenes, it’s difficult to imagine them without the accompanying visual playing out in your mind. And yet, a number of them did stand alone — quite distinctly, in fact — in another life: Nico’s “These Days,” The Faces’ “Ooh La La,” David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?,” and multiple Kinks songs. They were all hits to a certain generation of listeners, but through Anderson’s films they became cultural touch-points for millennials as well. Here we explore 20 of the best old songs revisited by Anderson and Poster throughout Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom.

The Creation — “Making Time” From Rushmore This rowdy track from little-known British Invasion band The Creation plays almost the entire way through as Max Fischer’s laundry list of extracurriculars are shown.

The Kinks — “Strangers” From The Darjeeling Limited Three tracks from The Kinks’ 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One received prominent placement in The Darjeeling Limited, but it was the use of “Strangers” to soundtrack a long funeral walk that really sticks in your brain.

Seu Jorge — “Rebel Rebel” From The Life Aquatic Brazilian singer Seu Jorge, who appeared in the film as Pelé, was all over The Life Aquatic soundtrack with his David Bowie covers, some in English and others in his native Portuguese, but all delicately beautiful. This, I feel, is his best.

The Beach Boys — “Heroes and Villains” From Fantastic Mr. Fox This 1967 song represents a turning point in the Beach Boys’ history, as it was written to be the centerpiece of Brian Wilson’s shelved masterpiece Smile. It would go on to find new life for Wilson down the line as he continued to futz with Smile, and provided a needed change of pace amidst Alexandre Desplat’s Fantastic Mr. Fox score.

Francoise Hardy — “Le Temps de l’Amour” From Moonrise Kingdom After Suzy and Sam run away from home, she puts on this moody 1962 track as they dance and kiss on the abandoned beach in their underwear. The inherent romance of French pop feels appropriate for two kids trying to act like adults in love.

Paul Simon — “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” From The Royal Tenenbaums Although certainly a hit on its own, Simon’s spirited 1972 single soundtracked a memorable montage of Ari and Uzi getting into mischief with their grandfather.

Van Morrison — “Everyone” From The Royal Tenenbaums This track off Van Morrison’s classic 1970 album, Moondance, soundtracked the final scene of the film, though it never appeared on either of the two Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack releases.

The Rolling Stones — “2000 Man” From Bottle Rocket This meandering ’67 track plays as Anderson’s promising debut comes to a close and Owen Wilson’s character tries to evade the cops, ultimately getting caught.

Ramones — “Judy Is A Punk” From The Royal Tenenbaums No other punk song could perfectly soundtrack Margot Tenenbaum’s lifelong rap sheet flashing before our eyes.

Cat Stevens — “Here Comes My Baby” From Rushmore This 1967 tune has been a hit for many acts over the years (and notably covered by Yo La Tengo), but it took on new meaning in Rushmore, where it played as Max, Mr. Blume, and Miss Cross all spent time together.

Hank Williams — “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” From Moonrise Kingdom A number of down-and-out Hank Williams tunes brought a musical change of pace to Moonrise Kingdom, though only a handful of them actually ended up on the soundtrack.

Nico — “These Days” From The Royal Tenenbaums This Jackson Browne-penned classic has been a signature song for a number of artists, but its presence in Royal Tenenbaums made it feel like it belonged to Margot Tenenbaum. Following its use in her emotional bus scene, the song saw a renewed interest from Browne and others alike.

Peter Sarstedt — “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)” From The Darjeeling Limited The “Hotel Chevalier” short film that preceded The Darjeeling Limited built up its feeling of French sadness with this 1969 track from British troubadour Sarstedt. Its association with the prologue didn’t stop Anderson and Poster from reprising it throughout their feature, though.

The Who — “A Quick One, While He’s Away” From Rushmore Max and Mr. Blume’s war escalates with this medley cut off The Who’s 1966 LP, A Quick One. The song’s climax (well, one of several) will forever remind me of bees!

Devo — “Gut Feeling” From The Life Aquatic This mostly instrumental track could be viewed as a precursor for the scores Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh would go on to compose, many of them for Anderson films. It’s a nice ode to Mothersbaugh’s past, and it brought a punk energy to a montage of Team Zissou getting back to work.

Love — “Seven and Seven Is” From Bottle Rocket Psychedelic rockers Love had two songs featured in Bottle Rocket, amidst a very jazzy score from Mothersbaugh, and it brings a certain edge to Anderson’s thrilling debut.

David Bowie — “Life On Mars?” From The Life Aquatic It’s difficult to bring something new to a song as iconic as “Life On Mars?,” but Anderson and Poster somehow made it their own. As Zissou finds out he may be Ned’s father, he excuses himself and heads toward the ship’s bow, striding along this Hunky Dory classic as he contemplates life.

Bobby Fuller Four — “Let Her Dance” From Fantastic Mr. Fox One of the most enjoyable moments in Fantastic Mr. Fox comes when all the animals band together for a gleeful dance in the supermarket, all set to this, one of a handful of mid-’60s hits from the Bobby Fuller Four.

The Faces — “Ooh La La” From Rushmore It’s hard to imagine a more perfect closing scene in a Wes Anderson film than Rushmore‘s fade-out at the cast party. Max is finally happy: surrounded by friends and family, basking in theatrical success yet again, and dancing with Miss Cross to this Ronnie Wood-sung track.