HomeListsCue Sheet: Music from the film 'Rushmore'

Cue Sheet: Music from the film ‘Rushmore’

“I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”

It makes perfect sense that a movie about a prep school student who saves the Latin program and gets involved in a love triangle with a philandering businessman and a widowed elementary school teacher would have a predominantly British Invasion soundtrack. It makes sense because this is the eccentric film universe of director Wes Anderson.

Rushmore stars Jason Schwartzman as a working-class student on scholarship at prestigious Rushmore Academy. Bill Murray plays wealthy steel entrepreneur Herman Blume, in a role that revitalized Murray’s acting career. Olivia Williams plays Rosemarie Cross, the widowed school teacher who inspires Max and Blume’s friendship and rivalry.

Rushmore was director Anderson’s breakthrough in 1998, and it established his finely-tuned ear for music and its role in his films. Mark Mothersbaugh’s original contributions to the score are also instrumental in establishing the offbeat vibe of the film. But it’s the British Invasion-era songs that define the characters and give the film a dynamic quality, outside of time.

A “cue sheet” is a list of all the music synchronized into a film or TV show. Performing rights organizations, like ASCAP and BMI, use cue sheets to determine who gets paid for music that’s been licensed. Let’s take a look at Rushmore, focusing primarily on its major music cues.

“Making Time” – The Creation

This is as fierce an opener as this film could ask for. The Creation were a British Invasion band that never mounted an invasion. Their hard R&B style was similar to early Who and Kinks, and in fact they were produced by Shel Talmy, best known for his work with those bands. An inspired music choice to accompany this montage that introduces exactly who we’re dealing with in Max Fischer. Our boy has quite the extracurricular CV.

Classic quote: “Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.”

“Concrete and Clay” – Unit 4 + 2

A UK #1 by another non-invasive British skiffle outfit, Unit 4+2 featured Russ Ballard on guitar, later of Argent and writer of some hit songs for other artists, such as Rainbow and America. This song of undying love highlights Max’s exploding crush on Miss Cross, the new elementary school teacher at Rushmore, as he sets out to “save Latin” to impress her.

Classic quote: “Why don’t ya piss off Fischer, ya dotty wee skid mark.”

“Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl” – The Kinks

Bill Murray in Budweiser trunks doing a cannonball off the high-dive with a smoke hanging is a signature moment of the actor’s resurgent career. In this scene, his Herman Blume watches his wife flirting with a younger man. Blume subsequently makes a choice – to pursue an affair with Miss Cross – that seriously complicates his life. Reportedly, the entire soundtrack was originally meant to be Kinks songs, but this is the only one that ultimately made the cut. Really cool to see Ray Davies performing it live in Basel, Switzerland in 2010. His “Storytellers” tours of that era were charming evenings indeed.

“A Summer Song” – Chad & Jeremy

If you ever wondered why Dick Clark was such a big deal in show biz, just check my man out introing Chad & Jeremy on American Bandstand in 1964. Cool, man. This sunny song of summer love is the perfect compliment to Max’s waking daydream of romance with Miss Cross. His fancy is in full flight at this point, as he plans to build an aquarium to honor the memory of the teacher’s dead husband.

Classic quote: “We’ve become friends. And the truth is, neither one of us knows where this relationship is going.”

“Blinuet” – Zoot Sims

A tasty little cocktail jazz number from hard-swinging and melodic tenor man Zoot Sims. This song plays backstage after Serpico, Max’s “hit play” adaptation of the gritty story of a New York cop. Love it when Max says to Miss Cross’s friend, played by Luke Wilson, “I got punched in the face. What’s your excuse?” But that’s not even the best line of the sequence.

Classic quote: “These are OR scrubs. Oh, are they?”

“Here Comes My Baby” – Cat Stevens

This pleasant tune from Cat Stevens’s 1967 debut album, Matthew and Son, features unrequited love and the sound of the glockenspiel, which fits nicely in the Mark Mothersbaugh aesthetic. Max has been expelled from Rushmore for destroying the baseball diamond trying to build an aquarium for Miss Cross. But this montage finds him making a go of it at Grover Cleveland, the public high school in town.

Classic quote: “But I need a tutor.”

“Jersey Thursday” – Donovan

Scotsman Donovan Leitch never broke big in the States, but he was an icon in ’60s England. This is signature hippie-folk strumming and expressionist poetry off his 1965 release, Fairytale. Max is literally burning it down at this point. He builds a leaf-pile fire on the Rushmore grounds and flips off headmaster Dr Guggenheim.

Classic quote: “I just came by to thank you for wrecking my life.” 

“A Quick One, While He’s Away” – The Who

Early Who is typically lumped in with other British Invasion fare of the time, but this rock suite, here performed live at The Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus in London 1968, clearly shows they were something entirely their own. This montage of the now-raging feud between Max and the philandering Blume is spot-on choreography for this song. Max goes defcon on Blume’s life, revealing the married man’s affair to his wife and cutting the brake lines on his Bentley. Max gets perp-walked out of Grover Cleveland as Pete and John shriek, “You are forgiven!”

“I Am Waiting” – Rolling Stones

I was so sick of the Stones’ “Paint it Black” by the time I got a copy of Aftermath, I usually started with side 2, which featured this Baroque track, along with “Flight 505” and the 11-minute “Goin’ Home.” This song’s plaintive feel amplifies the loneliness as the Rushmore love triangle is separated. Max is resigned, despondent. Margaret Yang brings him a plant. He puts it on his mother’s grave.

Classic quote: “She’s my Rushmore, Max.”

“The Wind” – Cat Stevens

“Oh Yoko!” – John Lennon

This cue has always been a bit of a sore spot with me. The song lyrically really sticks out, and seems either intentionally or inadvertently to equate Margaret Yang with the popular conception of Yoko Ono. But the tone of the song does match the hopeful mood of the film at this point. This clip is hilarious as Lennon gets pissed off trying to record the harmony vocals. “The end of the song is just like the fucking rest of it!”

“Ooh La La” – Faces

Classic quote: “Hey you two. Shake a leg.”

The soundtrack drew me into this film when I first encountered it. I wasn’t familiar with many of the tunes, so I wasn’t distracted by memories that more familiar music can conjure. In the end, the tarnished glory of the British Invasion serves as an apt illustration of the Latin phrase that recurs in the film: Sic transit gloria. Glory fades. Rushmore puts a bit of polish on that old glory.

I’ve never owned, in any format, a copy of the Rushmore soundtrack. But if I did, I can imagine it would sound something like this

Please stick & stay for more cue sheets

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