Boardwalk Empire: The Music

If a cable network asked me to come up with a concept for a TV series, I’d come up with something like Boardwalk Empire, which will debut its third season starting this weekend. It’s about organized crime and classic real life gangsters, it’s produced by Martin Scorsese, it stars Steve Buscemi, and it’s a period piece. In fact, the effort HBO makes to place it in a proper era context is a big part of the show’s charm for me. And a significant part of their effort is that they go out of their way to use actual music from the Roaring 20s. It’s a neat trick. Here are some of my favorite songs that have been featured on Boardwalk Empire.

The Japanese Sandman

I’ll See You in Cuba
It’s tough to play favorites with these songs but this one is my favorite because it’s so spot-on for what was going on in the show at the time, and what was going on in the era. It appeared as Jimmy was leaving on a train for Chicago.

Alice Blue Gown

Life’s a Funny Proposition
Warning- the song/youtube clip is a spoiler for the end of season 1.

After You Get What You Want
What makes this song so great in terms of the show is the way they used it in the season 2 trailers, and of course how it worked as an echo for Nucky’s situation as the feds descended upon him.

Foolish Questions

Over There
It’s hard to talk about season 2 without thinking of Jimmy’s flashbacks, which include his service as a soldier. And no song epitomizes World War I service more than this one.

When the Dew is Falling

I’m the Guy


12 Comments

Filed under Boardwalk Empire, TV Shows

12 responses to “Boardwalk Empire: The Music

  1. Can’t wait for this season to start! I wonder who is gonna step up to replace Jimmy Dormody. While I’m not much of a Michael Pitt fan, I thought he was great on this show.

    • The guy who met Kevin Meany

      I am rolling through Season 1 right now. One song I really like is the intro song by a band that started out as a Rolling Stones tribute band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, named after one of the original members of the Stones. I know you were going for the music of the 1920s but I love that song.

      • Me too. I almost included it anyway. I didn’t like it at first because it didn’t fit the show, but then you do the math- it’s a Scorsese-produced show, but it’s a TV show (not a movie)… It fits the Scorsese/gangster aesthetic when you put it into the world of TV.

        The Magritte-inspired visuals don’t hurt, either.

    • I didn’t really think about it from the narrative angle, but you’re right. There’s a big hole to fill. Maybe we’ll get more Chalky.

      • More Chalky would be great, especially since they added a bit more depth to his character in Season 2. Then again, more of the Mad Butcher of Philly would be welcome too. Talk about a great character! A bit over the top, but in a fun and watchable way.

        • Did you know he’s supposed to be in the Raging Bull sequel that’s no longer allowed to be called a Raging Bull sequel? Not Chalky, but Manny Horvitz.

          • A Raging Bull sequel??? All I can say is: WHY???

            • I believe it was Jake LaMotta trying to get more money. Scorsese didn’t flat out block it, but he clearly didn’t endorse it either. Then the studio stepped in and made them change the name. Now it’s “The Bronx Bull”… which somehow seems appropriate, like it’s some horrible knockoff.

  2. aleksa

    I loved the use of “After You Get What You Want”, and how you could apply it to just about every major character. I thought it worked well with Margaret’s increasing disillusionment in her situation.

  3. I kinda fell out with this show half way through the second season for some reason (same thing happened with TREME) must get back on the wagon

    • I’ll be honest, Scott, I struggled with season 2 quite a bit, also. It’s not that it was bad- and you have some great stuff coming your way in those final episodes. But I definitely enjoyed it a lot less than season 1.

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