Most people know that I am a total devotee of the USA Network show Mr. Robot (I have interviewed Sam Esmail and gone to battle defending Season 2 vs. the arguments of critic Matt Zoller Seitz).
What people might not know is that my blog started as a music-only blog (this may be hard to believe because my writing about television shows has become much more popular than my writing about music and the blog has adjusted accordingly).
One of the things I have discussed the least is my love of the music curation on Mr. Robot (I also love the score by Mac Quayle which is equally amazing).
Part of this has been because I have been trying to hunt down who is primarily responsible for the choices (more on this in a second).
In 2016, the first question I asked Kor Adana (the shows hacking consultant) was about music curation and my last conversation with Sam Esmail was about music curation.
So, anyway, here are my favorite music curation moments from the show:
Time Zone (Afrika Baambataa and John Lydon): World Destruction
This song started the last episode of Season 1 in reaction to the international fallout from the 5/9 hack.
For me it has much deeper meaning, I grew up a punk rock kid in a non-punk rock school. My first band was a punk band and my friends were all other punks. The Sex Pistols and the Clash were my early music gods. In addition, as the Clash deepened their experimentation with reggae they also started to integrate hip-hop (Yes, punk was originally co-productive with hip-hop).
My blog is called On Pirate Satellite, because The Clash put out a song that fused punk and hip hop called “This is Radio Clash” that became an anthem for me (and led me to become an early hip-hop head).
Later, when I started as a DJ in college, ‘World Destruction’ was one of my favorite songs to play in the club.
Most people don’t know that when he wasn’t busy being the sneering and sarcastic leader of the Sex Pistols (and later Public Image Ltd.) John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was a renowned collector of reggae and world music.
Sonic Youth: Bull In The Heather
‘Bull In The Heather” is played during Season 2 Episode 2 to demonstrate that as cool as Angela Moss appears on the outside, her insides are often going crazy with stress (this was while she was playing the double game as an employee of E Corp).
I am a nearly lifelong and devoted fan of Sonic Youth and especially a fan of Kim Gordon (if you haven’t read Kim’s book ‘Girl In A Band’ it is a great read). I think they were one of the most important of the last thirty years and were a huge influence on me as a musician and music curator.
Anyway, ‘Bull in the Heather’ is on the album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (Geffen Records, 1994) and the video features Kathleen Hanna of the seminal Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill (and of many other projects).
Television, ‘Guiding Light’
‘Guiding Light’ by Television was played during the flashback scene when young Elliot first finds out that his father Edward is sick and that he will be working at a new computer repair store (which Elliot names “Mr. Robot”).
Marquee Moon, the album “Guiding Light” appears on, is one of my top 20 all-time albums and one of the most completely satisfying albums I have ever heard (even all these years later, I can still listen to it at any time and be totally happy). Television was one of the CBGB bands (like Ramones, but also not at all like the Ramones).
For some inexplicable reason, Television never got love for the album Marquee Moon until much later (and still never got the love that they deserved IMHO).
Phil Collins: Take Me Home
This song was played while Darlene was pulling off the bank heist (where she got the banker to burn his banks own money) during Season 2 Episode 2.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this one because I already wrote an entire post rebutting absurd criticism of the inclusion of this song (which I thought was inspired).
I am not the biggest Genesis or Phil Collins fan, but the song made perfect sense in context and is another example of how every little detail is attended to by the Mr. Robot team.
The Cure “Pictures Of You”
Okay, ‘Pictures of You’ was integrated throughout the first 15 minutes of Season 1 Episode 7 as Elliot was dealing with his feelings about the murder of Shayla. I probably should also mention here that “Pictures of You’ is on the album Disintegration and that Sam Esmail has repeatedly described what is to come in Season 3 as “Disintegration.”
So, I originally wanted to find out who was responsible for the music curation of Mr. Robot precisely because the use of ‘Pictures of You’ was what inspired me to write about Mr. Robot and I wanted to thank whoever was responsible.
Recently, I got an answer from a pretty credible source:
My original motivation for writing about Mr. Robot was the incredibly smart use of this song as an element of plot. As I explained to Mr. Esmail in thanking him (in reference his use of the song):
Anyway, if you haven’t watched the first 15 minutes of S1 E7, I highly recommend paying attention to how the song tells the story.
A few honorable mentions: Tears For Fears ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World,’ Tuxedomoon ‘Love on a Real Train’ (which pays homage to one of the best scenes in the Tom Cruise movie Risky Business),’ and Jim Carrol Band ‘People Who Died.’
If you follow my blog, I put out new Spotify mixed-tape style playlists every Tuesday.
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