I've had the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 from Guardians of the Galaxy in my car's CD player since July 2014. It hasn't been replaced. The album is that good. Writer/Director James Gunn is one of those creatives who really nails a soundtrack.
When I sat down with James Gunn and Producer Kevin Feige last month during the press junket of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we talked about the music for the new movie and the incredible new Awesome Mix Vol. 2.
We even learned in talking with James and Kevin that one song, “Wham Bam,” was a random suggestion from a Twitter user. James told us he had never heard that song before.
On the process of choosing the music for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James: Sure. I mean, listen. I have a list of about 500 songs, which I think of as Guardians-type songs that Meredith Quill might really love. And when I'm going through, and I'm writing the script, I put the songs into the script where they seem to fit. And sometimes I don't have a song that seems right on that list, and so I have to go out and search, and listen to a bunch of stuff, and see what I like. But eventually it's all basically baked into the organic story of what's happening in a movie, in the same way you put, you know, sugar in a cake.
— Jana Seitzer (@merlotmommy) April 20, 2017
On the song “Wham Bam” coming from Twitter
James: And all of the time—there's nothing I get more tweets about than, ‘You oughta put this song in Guardians of the Galaxy.' Those are the nice ones. The mean ones were, ‘If you don't put this song in Guardians of the Galaxy, I'll never talk to you again.' I'm like, ‘Okay, don't talk to me.' But they always say, and they're always songs that I know really well, 'cause I've studied my 70s music, especially since starting on this series, and somebody sent this song by this band called Silver, called ‘Wham Bam.'
And I'm like, ‘I've never—what is that song?' And I went, and I played it, and I'm like, ‘This is a really cool, like, total 70s pop song that is so different.' And then I was like, ‘Is this a fake song?' I thought it was a modern band with a retro vibe.
Had to go and do some research on it, and found out that it really existed, and then I put it in the movie. So, I wish I knew who that Twitter person was.
Kevin: What's so amazing, and it was like this on the first one, and held to it on the second one, a lot of screenwriters put song suggestions into their scripts, and almost none of those songs end up in the actual movie.
And when James did that, I think even maybe on an outline in the first movie, and and certainly in an outline on the second movie. On the first one, it was like, ‘Oh, that's cute. He thinks these songs are gonna be in the movie. We'll see.' Every single song. It's not just the movie. But what's perfect for the movie. And then on part two, I knew better. So, would listen to the song as I'm reading the outline, and then later the script. And that sort of pool of songs that he has comes in handy.
James: And the other—I remember when we did our very first test screening. Because we had written all of the songs into the movie, and they were all in there, and then all of a sudden, somebody—one of the first comments was, ‘The music is great.' And I remember you going, ‘Oh. Thank God, thank God.' But it was a relief
Kevin: Because the whole movie was built around it.
James: And it's like, if people said, ‘The music is weird, we hate it,' then that would have been big trouble. Would have been like saying, ‘Take out all the jokes. Take out the raccoon. We love it all but the stupid raccoon.'
But yeah, that's the other thing I remember is that I probably gave you the music with the treatments.
So, I writ a very in-depth treatment. It ends up being about 70 pages long. That number's a little bit high because I put a bunch of photographs in there, of sort of, you know, things that make us know what the feel of things are.
But it's more like a 55-page draft. But it goes very much into depth, in the dialogue, every beat of the story, what's happening. I like to do that first. But with that, I have a disk that I give to the four, five people that read that treatment, and that disk has all of the songs on it that are in the movie.
With the Zune introduction, with the music progress to be more 80s and 90s?
James: It's not about becoming 80s/90s. I think we'll have to wait and see exactly what the music is, but I think that, you know who, where that Zune came from, and what that Zune is, and that gives us a different relationship to the music, and what we go forward with.
On the music for the Guardians of the Galaxy theme park ride music in California Adventure
Kevin: There's a Guardians of the Galaxy theme park ride that is opening soon at California Adventure that features songs that James suggested as well, and a few other places coming up in the future.
James: Yeah. Chosen by us.
The ride features six different experiences to choose from, all scored courtesy of Star-Lord’s “Awesome Mix Tape” songs, including:
- “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar (1980)
- “Give Up The Funk” by Parliament (1975)
- “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (1968)
- “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (1969)
- “Free Ride” by The Edgar Winter Group (1973)
- “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley (1972)
I’ve been invited to an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles. As always, all opinions are my own.
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