Edgar Wright On The Music Of The World's End

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If your ears have been anywhere near Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, you’ll be aware that Edgar Wright knows how to sling a fantastic soundtrack together. His new film, pissed-up sci-fi flick The World’s End, keeps up the quality, collating a selection of vintage British rock, pop and rap, all released between 1987 and 1993. With the soundtrack out now on iTunes, here’s Wright to talk you through the key tracks.

Released in 1990. First single from the group’s breakthrough album, Screamadelica. Samples Peter Fonda dialogue from the film The Wild Angels.

“This is the music that opens the movie. We decided it would be an anthem for Gary King (Simon Pegg): the opening dialogue is something he would use as his Bible. It’s perfect for Gary because it’s just a ‘fuck you to the man’ song. It was also a personal gateway for me into listening to indie music. I was 16 in 1990 and up until that point I’d listened mostly to what was in the pop charts, older acts like Bowie or Queen or my parents’ old Beatles and Stones albums. But I remember hearing Bruno Brookes running down the UK Top 40, saying, ‘New entry in at number 36… it’s Primal Scream with Loaded!’ I was like, ‘What is this?’

“We had some of the songs playing on set. Loaded was definitely blaring out when we shot the close-up of Simon’s face for his first scene. It’s really powerful, hearing that in the room. The cast were also listening to Suede through earwigs for the scene where they’re walking in slow motion. Every time we did a take, just before the cameras rolled, Paddy [Considine] would be singing ‘Streaker!’ along with Brett Anderson. Every single time!”

Released in 1990. Cover of a Rolling Stones tune, with guest vocals from Junior Reid. The band’s name is inspired by a character from The Clangers.

“Gary has something of a coke-brain, which gives him the memory of a goldfish. He can’t remember somebody’s name from five seconds ago, and he repeats lyrics from songs as if he made them up himself. So at one point Gary starts to spout The Soup Dragons: in his drink and drug-addled mind, like he considers himself some kind of great philosopher.

“I’m Free” is the track the guys are listening to on their way to Newton Haven. Simon is singing along with it, Paddy is bopping away and Martin [Freeman] is humming along with the bassline. That scene actually comes directly from my own life. My friends who went on the pub crawl with me when I was 19 all came to the London premiere, and I said to one of them, Ian, ‘Did you recognise the bit that was inspired by our trip to Nick’s wedding?’ We were driving to Devon in his car, and he was playing Get It Hot by AC/DC. I said, ‘I haven’t heard this in ages. Didn’t I put this song on a tape for you once?’ And he went, ‘Yeah, this is it! This is the tape!’ In real life he’d brought it along as a joke, but in the movie Gary has had that tape in his car stereo since 1990.”

Released in 1987. Goth-rock anthem, incorporating a 40-piece choir. Throughout The World’s End, Gary sports a faded Sisters Of Mercy T-shirt.

“I didn’t really have any of their albums, this was the only song I really knew, but Simon was a major Sisters Of Mercy fan. The other day he was laughing, because he realised he refers to This Corrosion as ‘later Sisters Of Mercy’ but only as it’s a 1987 track, as opposed to 1985. Simon was very much into Goth bands like The Mission and Fields Of The Nephilim as a teen. And there was definitely that neo-medieval phase which inspired the look Gary is trying to pull off. Fields Of The Nephilim was a band that dressed in big dusters and black hats and always seemed to be covered in dust. It was most probably flour.”

Released in 1989. Lyrics inspired by the Humphrey Bogart classic The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.

“Again, this came out at a time when I was just on the cusp of discovering alternative music. And I remember feeling a bit left out, because I was the right age to get into The Stone Roses, but never quite dived in. When I was in sixth form, the kids in the year below were dressing up like them, wearing the flared jeans. And I was left thinking, ‘I’m not part of the cool club.’ Fools Gold was one of the first indie tracks to break through into the mainstream; it was no longer just the preserve of The NME and John Peel. I remember seeing them perform it on Top Of The Pops — it was a memorably nonchalant performance. They were trying to be too cool for school by not really miming properly. I love this track.”

Released in 1991. Featured in the band’s debut album, Leisure. Can be downloaded for Guitar Hero 5.

“A lot of these songs came out just before the Britpop era. There’s No Other Way was Blur’s second single [after She’s So High] and a top ten hit, even though it then still took them a couple of years to really become massive. I’ve never met Damon Albarn, but he’s a big hero of mine. I’ve met Graham Coxon and Alex James on a number of occasions, but never Damon. I’m a huge Gorillaz fan as well.

"Did I consider using Oasis? I’ll say this out loud and I don’t mean to lose any followers with it: I’m not a big Oasis fan. Maybe it’s because they’re so hilariously arrogant in interviews. There are some tunes I like, especially off Definitely Maybe, but Liam Gallagher in particular seems to turn me off from liking them in every interview. Also, they had their heyday in 1994, which is just after the period that we’re covering.”

Released in 1967. Originally written as part of the 1927 opera Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny.

“Right back at the start, when we were first talking about the film, I said to Simon, ‘We have to use Alabama Song!’ Because the lyrics go: ‘Show me the way to the next whiskey bar/ Oh, don’t ask why/ For if we don’t find the next whiskey bar/ I tell you we must die.’ That pretty much sums up the plot! And the line ‘Oh, don’t ask why’ also addresses the question as to why the characters don’t just get the fuck out of Newton Haven.

“The first version of the song was by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, but I became aware of it through the David Bowie version. We actually tried to use Bowie’s take in the film at one point, but it was too intense. And The Doors’ version has got that amazing, almost polka-like feeling to it, while still being deeply sinister. The late, great Ray Manzarek’s keyboard playing on it is so great. It sounds like a creepy circus tune.

“I was worried that This Is The End might use The End by The Doors, which they didn’t. And we were anxious for a while that we wouldn’t be able to afford the song: every time we’d show the scene, people would say, ‘The Doors? Forget it. You’ll have to find an alternative.’ But eventually we realised it had to be in there.
“The montage that Alabama Song plays over was timed very carefully to the music. We had it playing on set, so the actors were walking in step to it and drinking in time to it as well. It’s not easy. I’d like you in the Empire office to try drinking a whole pint in time to the middle eight of Alabama Song — it’s really difficult!”

Released in 1993. Written by Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. The music video featured children from the Kent coastal town of Whistable.

“There are two types of song on the soundtrack: ones about Gary and his hedonism, and ones reminiscing about old times. I think the music is the biggest thing that helps you understand where Gary is coming from — without these tunes, you’d be wondering why he’s so obsessed with this time and why he wants to go back. So Young is my favourite Suede song and that was always going to be the one that they walk around town to. Bernard Butler’s guitar has a kind of Western twang to it, and I just thought, ‘This is perfect for the guys walking around in slow motion.’

“I have frequent bouts of nostalgia and often wonder why, even though I’m happy in my life, I constantly want to go backwards. Usually it’s hearing a song like this that triggers some sense of sweet melancholy. So Young is a beautiful song, and it reminds me every time of the audio cassette I had of Suede’s debut album. Putting it on the soundtrack, it makes it feel like Gary’s mix tape has permeated the entire movie.”

Released in 1990. A homage to ‘70s music, which namechecks The O’Jays and their hit single Love Train.

“That song is only one terrible keyboard sound away from being an absolute classic. That’s the funny thing with Stock, Aitken & Waterman: they could write really good songs, but sometimes it’s just the choice of the keyboards that immediately dates it. It’s got great lyrics and the breakdown during the school-disco scene is one of my favourite bits of music in the movie. It’s nice to be able to do a 2013 film on the big screen and stage a major slow-motion moment to Stock, Aitken & Waterman! The school-disco song was always going to be either Step Back In Time or Doin’ The Do by Betty Boo. But it ultimately had to be Step Back In Time, because that’s precisely what Gary is trying to do.”

Released in 1989. Rap tune that samples RoboCop’s uncompromising droid, ED-209. Silver Bullet’s latest single was 2004’s Se7en, which sadly fails to sample Morgan Freeman.

“This is another one that both me and Simon really, really love. I remember hearing it on the chart show and saying to my brother, ‘Have you heard that song that samples RoboCop?’ It’s an incredibly intense and aggressive track. Hearing it on the Top 40 felt dangerous. It’s amazing that it was a big, top-ten hit.”

Released in 1990. One of two Top 10 hits from their album Vol. II: 1990 - A New Decade. Contains such sound advice as: “Your notions, put them in motion.”

“When we were compiling the music, I looked at the charts to see what was in the Top 40 during that era. There were a lot of songs that I didn’t want to revisit at all, like Ride On Time by Black Box, which always used to annoy the hell out of me. And there were songs that I liked at the time I never owned it, like ‘Get A Life.’ There was a 12 month period between 1989 and 1990 when Soul II Soul were huge and ubiquitous, so it was nice to showcase them in the movie and have some contrast to the indie jukebox. That said, the song that immediately follows, This Is How It Feels by The Inspiral Carpets, was another one that was perfect for this movie. A lot of British indie hits at that time have a slightly melancholic vibe to them.”

And there’s more…

The soundtrack, available to download now here or to buy physically on July 29, features 20 songs, including tracks from Saint Etienne, The Beautiful South and Teenage Fanclub. But there’s even more music that didn’t make it onto the album. Fear not, says Wright, as there’s another LP due in the not-too-distant future.

“It’ll be Steven Price’s score and also an amazing Osymyso mega-mix,” he reveals, “done in the style of an early ‘90s rave track, with dialogue mixed in. I’ve just heard it and it’s fucking awesome!”