The Second Disc

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Friday Feature: “Wall Street”

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Who’d have figured, 23 years ago, that Oliver Stone’s ripped-from-the-headlines drama Wall Street would have garnered enough cultural currency to warrant a sequel in 2010? Certainly not the writer-director, who went from strength to strength in and around Hollywood before finally committing to his first sequel. Probably not Michael Douglas, whose corporate raider Gordon Gekko became one of the most captivating villains of 1980s film (and later, bizarrely enough, one of the most misguided role models of the business world). And absolutely none of those real-life movers and shakers of the market who became the unwitting inspirations for the film – people like Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and Carl Icahn, who personified Wall Street during the latter half of the decade (and in Boesky and Milken’s cases, went to jail for schemes very similar to what’s seen in the film).

But sure enough, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opens today, and it’s obviously a thing of cultural commentators to revisit the film. Having recently viewed the film, it’s a shock how patently unlikeable the main characters are. Douglas’ Gordon Gekko – speaker of that immortal quote “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” – and Charlie Sheen as the stockbroker who attempts to follow in his ruthless footsteps are cold, unfeeling, aloof of consequences and petulant when their problems catch up with them. And perhaps that’s the point. But turns by Hal Holbrook as a veteran broker and Martin Sheen as our protagonist’s father (a masterstroke of casting, naturally) do not make a full moral compass to rely on, and – particularly in an economy with a terrible streak of unemployment caused by unfettered financial greed – it’s hard not to want to throw something at the television while watching.

Something that isn’t completely infuriating, though, is the music. While much of the film is peppered by source music – Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” opens the film, and a couple Stan Getz tunes are heard here and there – two sources are integral to the musical palate which surrounds the film. More on them after the jump.

There was an actual score recorded for the film by Stewart Copeland. I have not found much that Copeland has had to say about his film score career, which took off not long after The Police imploded, although he briefly mentions in his autobiography that he got his first soundtrack gig to 1983’s Rumble Fish after director Francis Ford Coppola’s children suggested him. Unsurprisingly, his contributions to Wall Street are atmospheric and percussive, with those familiar polyrhythms providing a beefy undercurrent to the trading action at hand. One track, the cue written for Fox’s calculated buying of stock in Anacott Steel at Gekko’s request, has made it onto several Copeland compilations as well.

Oliver Stone must have found Copeland’s work enriching, as the drummer also scored his next film, 1988’s Talk Radio. Varese Sarabande released an album containing music from both scores (it may well be complete for both films).

Stewart Copeland, Talk Radio/Wall Street: Original Motion Picture Soundtracks (Varese Sarabande VSD-5215, 1988)

  1. Kent: Unpredictable
  2. Dietz: Just Come Right in Here, Denise
  3. TLKa: We Know Where You Live
  4. Tick: We Feel Too Much
  5. Trend: He Has Heart
  6. Bud’s Scam
  7. Are You With Me?
  8. Trading Begins
  9. The Tall Weeds
  10. Break-Up (Darian)
  11. Anacott Steal
  12. End Title Theme

Tracks 1-5 from Talk Radio. Tracks 6-12 from Wall Street.

Another pair of individuals who should be noted for their contributions to the Wall Street sound is that of David Byrne and Brian Eno. The lead Talking Head and the famed producer followed years of collaboration with a proper solo LP in 1981. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was a landmark of alternative “ambient” and world music styles in the 1980s, and several tracks (“America is Waiting” and “Mea Culpa”) were utilized in the film alongside one Talking Heads track (“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” which plays when Bud Fox moves into a luxurious apartment).

Interestingly enough, Byrne and Eno were tapped again to contribute to the music to Money Never Sleeps. Tracks from their 2008 LP Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, as well as a few solo Byrne cuts, form the soundtrack of the new film with a few score cues by Craig Armstrong.

“Stone was super accommodating – inviting me numerous times to view rough assemblies to be sure I was OK with how the music was being used,” Byrne wrote. “This is pretty unusual; most times licensing a song for a movie is a bureaucratic formality, and the artist is never invited into the process.” It’s good to know, then, that the music of Wall Street is surrounded by a distinct lack of greed – a rare beacon of light in an otherwise cutthroat franchise.

Written by Mike Duquette

September 24, 2010 at 11:15

2 Responses

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  1. I saw a great comment today in some paper from Shia LeBouef about his dealings with Oliver Stone.

    Seems LeBouef didn’t like the use of the word “mirror” in a scene and went to Stone about it to suggest changing it to somewhing else.

    According to LeBouef, Stone responded, “I like ‘mirror’. I wrote ‘Scarface’. Go f**k yourself.”



    September 25, 2010 at 10:51

    • Haha, excellent. Although Stone could have picked a better representation of his written work; “Scarface” was a little on the cartoonish side.

      Mike Duquette

      September 25, 2010 at 13:41

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