Exploring Soundtracks: Boogie Nights


Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be looking at Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 historical drama, “Boogie Nights”.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been slowly working our way through Martin Scorsese’s filmography. But recently, we ran into a little snag, and currently find ourselves waiting on the release of his upcoming film, “The Irishman”. So for the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, whose work has often been compared with that of Scorsese.

While some might not see the connection between Scorsese and a film like “Boogie Nights”, I assure you, it’s there. “Boogie Nights” is essentially Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Goodfellas”. Except, instead of charting the rise and fall of a man in the mafia, it charts the rise and fall of a man in the porn industry.

Another similarity that the two directors have in common, is their approach they take when it comes to the music in their films. Paul Thomas Anderson seems to understand how to capture the feeling of an era with the use of period pop music. For “Boogie Nights”, that means a ton of pop and disco.

But before we get into the soundtrack itself, here’s a brief synopsis for anyone who needs a refresher, or hasn’t seen the film.


Set in California in the late ’70s, “Boogie Nights” follows the story of teenage busboy Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), as he is discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), and becomes an adult film star who goes by the name Dirk Diggler. Upon reaching his ambitions, Dirk risks losing it all with his hectic, drug-crazed lifestyle and big ego.

Boogie Nights

The music in “Boogie Nights” starts off right away in the first scene with The Emotions’ single, “Best of My Love”, which was released in the same year of the film’s setting, 1977. The song choice is doubly appropriate, as the first scene takes place in a night club where the single would most likely have played. Also, it keeps the subject of lovemaking front and center.

The sexy tunes keep coming throughout the film with more seventies hits. And most of them tend to set the tone for porn-industry scenes. There’s “Jungle Fever”, which plays during Eddie’s lucky moment with roller-girl, and continues to play as he transitions into his new life, along with roller-girl’s theme song, “Brand New Key”, which plays in the accompanying scene.

While a lot of the songs in “Boogie Nights” are straight forward party and sex tunes, there are a few moments when a more sentimental song plays for comedic relief. For example, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop plays in a scene where Little Bill finds his wife having sex outside with another man as a crowd watches. That one didn’t make the first soundtrack, but did find its way into the second, which was released the following year.

Another track that unfortunately only made the second soundtrack is “Boogie Shoes”, by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Not only is it a great song that encapsulates the seventies, but it also plays in a scene where Eddie upgrades his wardrobe with a new pair of…well, boogie shoes.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the soundtrack to “Boogie Nights” is filled with a ton of seventies hits that keep the good vibes rolling and the disco front and center. While it ultimately might not have quite as many tracks that comment on scenes and characters like Scorsese, it stacks up as well as any film can.

That about wraps up our discussion for today. I hope you enjoyed our look at Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights”. We’ll be back next week with another great soundtrack to explore.

Track List

1. John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg – “Intro (Feel the Heat)” (1:11)
2. The Emotions – “Best of My Love” (3:39)
3. Chakachas – “Jungle Fever” (4:20)

4. Melanie – “Brand New Key” (2:23)

5. Eric Burdon and War – “Spill the Wine” (4:02)
6. Marvin Gaye – “Got to Give It Up (Part 1)” (4:07)
7. Commodores – “Machine Gun” (2:38)
8. Walter Egan – “Magnet and Steel” (3:23)

9. McFadden & Whitehead – “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” (3:40)

10. Night Ranger – “Sister Christian” (5:00)

11. Electric Light Orchestra – “Livin’ Thing” (3:30)

12. The Beach Boys – “God Only Knows” (2:48)
13. Michael Penn and Patrick Warren – “The Big Top (Theme from Boogie Nights)” (9:58)

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