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Soundtrack Mix #16: American Dreaming - Dennis Hopper Through Sound

An eclectic mix of cultural moments, our Dennis Hopper Soundtrack Mix pays honor to a glorious and shapeshifting career.
Florence Scott - Anderton
It is hard to know where to begin and what to say first when it comes to Dennis Hopper, both on screen and off. As an actor he began in the late 50s with small roles in films like Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and numerous TV performances. James Dean was a hero and friend to Hopper. A great way to view Rebel Without A Cause is to watch Hopper’s intense studying of and admiration for Dean on screen in that film. Hopper was witness to so many periods of American culture, a complex masculine figure much like his friend and contemporary Harry Dean Stanton, the whiskey, cigarettes and American highway mythology follows his legacy. This mix scratches the surface of an iconic figure of 20th-century popular culture and a great artist, it is a time capsule with no linear trajectory, bending back and forth across genre and feeling.
Coming in at just under two hours and fifteen minutes, the mix cruises across cultural moments from the 1950s to 2000s. Dialogue is fabricated alongside original soundtracks and scores from the relentless Hopper oeuvre. The mix starts with the inviting strings from Jerry Goldsmith's Hoosiers (1986) score. The film earned Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for his hybrid pairing of electronic and orchestral elements, a noteworthy score given the 1950s small-town backdrop the film takes place in. Hopper gives one of his most tender performances in this film as Shooter Flatch, likewise gaining an Oscar nomination for his portrayal as a town alcoholic and ex-basketball player with a son on the aforementioned team.
Highlights in the first hour include Neil Young’s 1979 “Hey Hey My My.” Every time I hear the opening chords of this song I’m transported straight back to Linda Manz’s unforgettable and haunting character Cebe in the Out Of The Blue (1980). This was Hopper's first directorial effort post-The Last Movie (1971) and is a raw and unflinching masterpiece of 80s independent cinema and the impetus behind Harmony Korine’s 1997 Gummo.
Hopper was always effortlessly ahead of the curb. “The Suicide Hotline” is pulled from Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat soundtrack (1996), in which Hopper plays notorious Bruno Biscofberger, a Swiss gallerist and art dealer in a role that felt made for him. Projects like this, independent and knowingly cool, followed Hopper throughout his career and his understanding of music and art, both on and off screen, make it come as no surprise. A role in the Neil Young and Dean Stockwell directed Human Highway (1982) furthers this theory. This weirdo 80s musical comedy features musical collaboration from Young and Devo (plus some trippy set design) and samples appear in this mix.
Hopper had an incredible acting run from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. A sober resurgence from the Easy Rider days led to some of the greatest performances of his career. The Wipers “Let Me Know'' from Tim Hunter’s 1986 Rivers Edge (which boasts Jurgen Knieper on the score and music from Slayer and Agent Orange) blends into the entrancing drum sequence from decades earlier Night Tide (1961), the latter showcasing Hopper’s diverse range as a young, sweet and dreamy eyed sailor in love.
Catchfire (1990), or Back Track as its director's cut is named, is sampled throughout. Hopper directs (and stars with) an on form Jodie Foster as a conceptual artist running away from the mafia after witnessing a crime. Of course it would not be a Hopper film without cameos from the likes of Bob Dylan and Catherine Keener. Here a cool downtown feel is pushed by the use of a saxophone. It’s important to note the music in Hopper’s directorial filmography, which taken alone is cause for celebration. We’re acquainted with the Easy Rider era and this mix pays its respects where they’re due, but what is more exciting is the score for The Hot Spot (1991) by Jack Nitzsche played by John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, Roy Rogers, Tim Drummond, and drummer Earl Palmer or the late 80s hip-hop soundtrack of 1988s L.A.P.D gang drama Colors (also featured in the first hour of this mix.) Hopper knew and lived inside of a realer Los Angeles than the Chateau Marmont set (although he was of course a frequent visitor), and it can be felt through his musical choices here.
Around the hour mark, a touching performance is featured, Hopper reciting Rudyard Kipling’s “If” on the Johnny Cash Show from 1971. His restrained performance is sincere and reimagines Kipling’s poem as if he were reading a manifesto for the creative spirit. Later in the mix Hopper’s versatility is on show again, as we hear him alongside Griffin Dunne in David Salle’s star-studded and all but forgotten Search and Destroy (1995), based on a play by the same name.
Two highlights from the second hour featuring two favorite filmmakers: firstly, a 1994 TV movie directed by Paul Schrader featuring Hopper, Penelope Ann Miller, Eric Bogosian and Sheryl Lee Ralph. Hopper is a private detective uncovering why Miller’s actress Kim Hudson has a waning career. Magic is a reality in this film and serves as a McCarthyism allegory. Even given what some would call cheaper fare, Schrader stays interesting and visual in this little seen film and it boasts a score from Angelo Badalamenti, a composer with Lynchian ties to Hopper through one of his undisputed career highlights as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (1986). Secondly, we hear Hopper as Mickey Wayne, a bigshot pornography director in Abel Ferrera’s 1997 fever dream, The Blackout. Hopper is enigmatic alongside Matthew Modine and Beatrice Dalle, “video is the future” he prophesies in a hypnotic scene with mesmerizing music from Joe Delia, Schoolly D and Gretchen Mol. This moment blends to a Gorillaz song with spoken word from Hopper, “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” is proof of Hopper’s legacy as a desired and admired collaborator. In the second hour, further nods to Hopper’s prolific TV career come in an excerpt of Hopper and Keith Carradine sharing a somber and loving moment from the 2008 series Crash.
The range of styles signifies the decades Hopper spent active, from the Western tones of True Grit (1969) and the Australian traditional ballad, “Over The Border,” from the end credits of Mad Dog Morgan (1971) to Jürgen Knieper’s score and use of The Kinks in The American Friend (1977). Wim Wenders' 70s masterpiece finds Hopper straight off the plane from the jungle after shooting his performance as the photojournalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). Coppola and Hopper’s on-set chat can be heard in this mix alongside music from the film.
The mix closes with moments from the likes of Giant (1958), Speed (1994) and an unexpected melancholy number from big time Blockbuster Waterworld (1995). Excerpts of Hopper from Hermann Vaske’s 2016 documentary Dennis Hopper: Uneasy Rider loop back into this closing section. Hopper starred in a string of advertisements directed by Vaske in the 1990s for Nike, and a film The Fine Art Of Separating People From Their Money (1996) narrating and starring Hopper also features in this mix. The film is a who’s who of cool celebrities and defines the 1990s Cannes Man era Hopper. We end on recordings from The American Dreamer  (1971), a documentary following Hopper during the making of The Last Movie (1971). As much as this tapestry of sound envisions the visionary Hopper, there could have been another two-plus hours, from voiceovers in animation and video games to his own wonderful photography, Hopper was constantly reinventing and creating a new rulebook. A true American Dreamer. 
  1. Jerry Goldsmith, Hoosiers (David Anspaugh, 1986), “The Gym” 0:00
  2. Excerpt, Dennis Hopper: Uneasy Rider (Hermann Vaske, 2016) 2:45
  3. Excerpt Scene by Scene (Mark Cousins,2001) & William Olvis, Red Rock West (John Dahl, 1993) “Track 09” (edit) 4:10
  4. Neil Young, Out Of The Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980), “Hey, Hey, My, My (Out Of The Blue)” 5:10
  5. David Lynch & Angelo Badalamenti (Blue Velvet, 1986), “Lumberton U.S.A / Going Down To Lincoln” 8:42
  6. Elmer Bernstein, True Grit (True Grit, 1969), “True Grit” 10:46
  7. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Flashback (Flashback, 1990), “Walk on the Wild Side” 12:24
  8. Nick Marion Taylor (Basquiat, 1996), “Suicide Hotline (Dialogue and Music Montage)” 17:08
  9. Dominic Frontiere (Hang ‘Em High, 1968), “Rachel (Love Theme)” 19:00
  10. Hans Zimmer (True Romance, 1993) “You’re So Cool” 21:45
  11. Excerpt, Tracks (Henry Jaglom, 1976) & Carmine Coppola And Francis Coppola, Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola, 1979)  “Kurtz Chorale” (edit) 24:50
  12. Stewart Copeland, Rumble Fish (Franis Coppola, 1983) “West Tulsa Story” 25:50
  13. 7a3, Colors (Dennis Hopper, 1988) “Mad Mad World” 29:30
  14. The Pogues, Straight To Hell (Alex Cox, 1987) “The Good, Bad And The Ugly” 34:12
  15. The Wipers, Rivers Edge (Tim Hunter, 1986) “Let Me Know” 37:51
  16. Excerpt, Night Tide (Curtis Harrington, 1961) (edit) 40:46
  17. William Olvis, Red Rock West (John Dahl, 1993) “Track 01” 24:30
  18. The Kinks, The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977) “Nothing In This World Stop Me ‘Worrin Bout That Girl” 45:50
  19. Excerpt, Catchfire (Dennis Hopper, 1990) 48:27
  20. Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Indian Runner (Sean Penn, 1991) “Fresh Air” 49:35
  21. Excerpt, Dennis Hopper on The Johnny Cash Show (1970) & Jack Nietzche ft. David Lindley (The Indian Runner, 1990) “My Brother Frank” (edit) 54:50 
  22. John Manning, The American Dreamer (L.M Kit Carson, 1971) “The Whole Song” 58:00
  23. Julee Cruise, Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986) “Mysteries Of Love” 62:00
  24. Excerpt, Blood Bath (Stephanie Rothman, 1966) 66:00
  25. Excerpt, Mad Dog Morgan (Philippe Mora, 1976) 67:00
  26. Jurgen Knieper, The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977) “Ripley’s Game”  69:15
  27. Lalo Schifrin, The Osterman Weekend (Sam Peckinpah, 1983) “Face Of Love” 71:05
  28. Excerpt, The Fine Art Of Separating People From Their Money (Hermann Vaske, 1996) 74:20
  29. Jack Nitsczhe, The Hot Spot (Dennis Hopper, 1990) “End Credits” 75:25
  30. Excerpt, The Blackout (Abel Ferrera, 1997) 80:40
  31. Gorillaz, “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” 82:45
  32. Angelo Badalamenti, The Witch Hunt (Paul Schrader, 1994) (edit) 85:35
  33. Roy Orbison, Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986) “In Dreams” 88:12
  34. Excerpt, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (Eleanor Coppola, 1991) & Excerpt, Human Highway (Neil Young, Dean Stockwell, 1982)  (edit) 90:45
  35. The Monkees, Head (Bob Rafelson, 1968) “Porpoise Song” 93:10
  36. Kris Kristofferson, “The Pilgrim Chapter 33” 97:15
  37. Dwight Yoakam, Red Rock West (John Dahl, 1993) “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” 99:48
  38. Excerpt, Super Mario Bros. (Ricky Morton, 1993) (edit) 104:00
  39. Bonnie Prince Billy & Matt Sweeney, Palermo Shooting (Wim Wenders, 2008) 104:30
  40. Excerpt, Search and Destroy (David Salle, 1995) & Jack Nitsczhe, The Hot Spot (Dennis Hopper,1990) “Coming To Town” 107:45
  41. Roger Mcguinn, Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) “Ballad Of Easy Rider” 110:52
  42. The Moody Blues, Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) “Nights in White Satin” 113:00
  43. Excerpt, Crash (2008, Glen Mazzara) (edit)  117:23
  44. Excerpt, Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994) (edit) 118:16
  45. Excerpt, Catchfire 121:45
  46. Dimitri Tiomkin, Giant (George Stevans, 1956) “Meeting Jett / Texas Morning” 123:15
  47. James Newton Howard, Waterworld (Kevin Reynolds, 1995) “Mariner’s Goodbye” 125:40 
  48. Excerpt, Dennis Hopper: Uneasy Rider (Hermann Vaske, 2016) 128:45
49. Excerpt, The American Dreamer (L.M Kit Carson, 1971)

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