Happy Monday, LemonWire. This week, with the recent release of “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”, we thought it’d be nice to take a look back at some of the iconic songs found throughout Quentin Tarantino’s career. Today, we’ll be starting with his directorial debut, “Reservoir Dogs”, and the song, “Stuck In The Middle With You”, by Stealers Wheel.
While we won’t be able to hit every one of Tarantino’s ten films, we can at least hit half of them. If you’ve been waiting to see “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” until you re-watch Tarantino’s other films, then our songs of the day this week should serve as a nice companion to help keep the music in mind.
We’ll start off each day with a brief overview of one of Tarantino’s films, followed by a discussion of the song, and the context it’s used in.
Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 directorial debut, “Reservoir Dogs” set him on course to be one of the more interesting and provocative directors of our time. His success in “Reservoir Dogs” comes from a combination of intense subject matter, innovative storytelling, killer dialogue, and an evocative soundtrack. Oh, and also a star-studded cast for his first film. How often does that happen?
There are a number of great musical moments in “Reservoir Dogs”, and almost every one of them contributes to an aura of “cool”. That’s definitely the feel Tarantino’s going for as the “dogs” slowly roll down the middle of the street in black suits to George Baker’s “Little Green Bag”.
It’s clear that from the beginning, Tarantino puts an emphasis on the music in “Reservoir Dogs”. He does this so much, in fact, that he continues to use the device of a fake news station to filter most of the songs (K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s). This small touch allows the music to flow seamlessly in and out of each scene. The station is teased throughout the film, but when it reaches our song of the day, it climaxes with a brutal juxtaposition.
Stuck In The Middle With You
In the most intense, iconic, and darkly comic scenes of the film, Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” sets the tone for the best dance Michael Madsen has ever danced. Oh, it’s also a brutal torture scene, in which his character Mr. Blonde, cuts the ear off of a tied up police officer, then douses him in gasoline.
While it seems like an inconsequential choice, one that apparently comes at random as Mr. Blonde turns on the radio, “Stuck In The Middle With You” captures the dynamic between both characters in this scene. The psychopathic Mr. Blonde holds all the power, the cop helpless and unable to escape. At the same time, the song breaks the fourth wall, in that it could be seen as Tarantino addressing the audience that they’re “stuck in the middle” of his story, unable to tear their eyes away even as he shows them a gruesome torture scene.
While we’ve already explained the connection between the lyrics and the scene, let’s take a brief look at the lyrics as they stand alone.
“Well I don’t know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain’t right,
I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I’m wondering how I’ll get down the stairs,”
The first verse here seems to depict a protagonist who’s disoriented, and possibly drunk. From that, we can surmise that the song may be set in the environment of a party. The next three lines reinforce this interpretation.
“Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you”
The second verse offers a variation on the first, but as you can see, we’re still in charted territory.
“Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place,”
It is interesting that, while the lyrics describe a fun time, the narrator also repeat that they’re “stuck in the middle” of it, suggesting a sense of powerlessness that contrasts with what you’d expect.
That about wraps up our discussion of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” from the “Reservoir Dogs” soundtrack. Hopefully we didn’t spoil any scenes for you. But seeing as how it’s nearly thirty years old, we should be relatively safe. Let us know if what your favorite musical moment from “Reservoir Dogs” is in the comments below.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at another iconic song/scene combo from Tarantino’s filmography. Stay tuned, or tune out.