Nicolas Cage’s career is a beautiful car wreck. It started off fast and wild, careening from weird to weirder. No matter how bad some of those early movies were he was always so brilliant that it didn’t matter. Part of the fun was waiting for him to drive into the ditch.
In a lot of ways Nic was almost like the genius front man of a band. Like any other great front man he seems to have gotten addicted to the fame and the fortune and started making the film equivalent of latter day Rolling Stones or U2 albums — safe, bloated boring. And like those bands that took the money and ran, Nic alienated his rabid early fan base in the process.
Anyway, scattered throughout the Cage filmography are some very tasty cuts. Here are my top ten Nic Cage soundtrack songs:
10. “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” Billie Holiday. It Can Happen To You was probably the best film of Cage’s Capra-esque period — light, entertaining, none of the weirdness that made him great but not a bad movie. And as for Ms. Billie; well, you can never go wrong there.
9. “Once In A Lifetime,” Talking Heads. Wait, maybe The Family Man was the best film of Nic’s Capra period. Are they the same film? I can’t remember. Warm, fuzzy, blah blah blah, but Talking Heads always hit the spot.
8. “Flower,” Moby. Gone in Sixty Seconds was the dealbreaker for me. That was the moment that I had to tell Nicky that we were breaking up. For fifteen years the only thing I needed to know about a new film was that it had Nic Cage in it and I was there. Sadly I’m now hesitant to see a film if I know that he’s in it because he seems to pick the shittiest scripts that he can find.
But Moby is still cool, right? Right?
7. “Janie Jones,” The Clash, Bringing Out the Dead. I’m not slotting this at number seven because it’s a #7 song but because you all know and love it already. The Clash is the top of pretty much any list, so I guess basically I’m not voting them employee of the month because the photo wall in the lobby would look pretty lame if it was just twelve pictures of Joe Strummer.
6. “Mama, You’ve Got A Daughter,” John Lee Hooker. I have never seen City of Angels, which is strange since it was released before I gave up on Nic. Regardless, the soundtrack was pretty big that year so it couldn’t very well be avoided. John Lee Hooker? Yes, please.
5. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us,” Sparks, Kick-Ass. Sparks is one of my greatest guilty pleasures. Are they new wave? Disco? Krautrock? Yes. No. I don’t know. Nobody does. They’re the Mael brothers and they’ll make whatever sound they please.
4. Birdy, Peter Gabriel. Great movie, great soundtrack. This is the only film on the list where I’ve chosen the entire score, but here’s a taste:
3. “Cool Cat Walk,” Angelo Badalementi, Wild At Heart. Badalementi can do no wrong in my opinion. The guy just writes great music that fits David Lynch films perfectly, and Nicolas Cage at that time was a great fit for Lynchian weirdness, too.
2. “A Million Miles Away,” The Plimsouls. I’m not going to rehash my Valley Girl love, but once again: This is one of the greatest songs of the Eighties.
1. “Don’t Box Me In,” Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgeway. Rumble Fish might have been titled James’s All-Time Favorites : Nicolas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper, Tom Waits, Francis Ford Coppola. Sweet Diane Lane’s Nipples that’s a lot of star power dedicated to one of my favorite books from childhood, and then to have the Police’s Stewart Copeland score the film? Forget about it — can’t do better than that. Oh wait, Wall of Voodoo’s Stan Ridgeway sings the title track. Greatest. Nic Cage Soundtrack Song. Ever.
Related “Why It Matters” piece: https://jamesostafford.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/64-i-started-drifting-to-a-different-place/