A Soundtrack Enthusiast :: Mean Streets (1973)


Originally titled Season of The Witch, Mean Streets is both an accomplishment in film in its own right, as well as a blueprint for the themes and motifs Martin Scorsese would later expand on and finesse for the next three decades. It’s all here: Cosa Nostra, religious devotion an doubt, moral contradiction, loyalty, family, and of course, violence. What also began with Mean Streets was the filmmakers relationship with, and use of, music to underscore his film’s action.

With Mean Streets not only did Scorsese change the face of cinema, but he also helped change the notion of what role music plays in film. Abstaining from a traditional score, the film makes use of contemporary pop music throughout the course of the narrative to accentuate each scene. Whether its the Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” playing as DeNiro’s Johnny Boy walks, in slow motion, into the bar, The Ronettes “Be My Baby” set against the film’s intro 8mm backdrop, or The Chips “Rubber Biscuit.” frenetically playing as Harvey Keitel’s character Charlie loses himself to the moment, the music is setting up mood and character, both in a micro and macro sense.

Below are three tracks from Mean Streets, my favorite overall Scorsese soundtrack (note: not commercially available). In lieu of the near universally known “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” check out another Stones track used in the film, “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” off of 1964’s England’s Newest Hit Makers.


MP3: The Chips :: Rubber Biscuit
MP3: The Ronettes :: Be My Baby
The Rolling Stones :: Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)
Mean Streets – Special Edition DVD

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10 thoughts on “A Soundtrack Enthusiast :: Mean Streets (1973)

  1. Very cool post, Jesse Malin used this design (modified) as his backdrop for his shows this year. Happy 08 to you and I am glad you enjoyed the post on boobs.


  2. watched The Departed last night on HBO…what a fantastic use of a score in that one. what i love are the quick cuts that build the tension of the movie and the way the score mimics that, going back and forth between the DiCaprio/Damon characters and as they get closer to collision so does the score.


  3. martin scorsese’s use of music in film is incredible, and ‘mean streets’ is not exception to that rule. thank you for the tracks, and for writing about it. ‘mean streets’ always reminds me of my friend rachel. she always says ‘mean streets’ was the film that made her want to be an actor.

  4. Rubber Biscuit!! I had never heard the original before…only the Blues Brothers version. Thanks!

  5. Great homage! I walked 3 miles through the snow to see ‘Mean Streets” at the new mall in ’73.

    I didn’t grok the importance of the music until I saw the film again in ’83.
    The operatic drums at the start of ‘Be My Baby’ are a fitting opening to the film.

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