Home Movies Movie Lists

Surf Music and Seventies Soul: The Songs of ‘Pulp Fiction’

Take a song-by-song tour of the groundbreaking film’s bestselling soundtrack

pulp fiction

THE KOBAL COLLECTION/MIRAMAX/BUENA VISTA

The mixture of surf, soul and shit-talking that Quentin Tarantino assembled for Pulp Fiction's soundtrack played out like one of the world's coolest mixtapes, which made it an instant classic when it came out. As it happens, Tarantino had mixtape sequencing in mind when he executive produced the album in 1994, rearranging the way the songs play out on the track list the same way he played with chronology in the movie. "This could easily be a Quentin tape," he said at the time of its release.

'Pulp Fiction,' A to Z

The soundtrack made it to Number 21 on the Billboard 200 and has since sold more three and a half million copies. It was so successful, in fact, that it's five surf-rock offerings renewed interest in the genre, prompting surf label Del-Fi to put out a comp called Pulp Surfin' the next year, and its influence has continued to reverberate as the Black Eyed Peas sampled it on their 2006 single "Pump it." 

In a 1994 interview that later appeared as a bonus track on the two-disc 2002 collector's edition of the soundtrack, Tarantino was adamant about keeping songs fresh in his movies. "You are such a poseur and a lame-o for using a song another movie has already christened," he said. And that approach has continued to define later Tarantino soundtracks like the ones for Jackie Brown and Django Unchained. "When people ask me what kinds of music I listen to, I never really know what to say," he said in the interview. "I listen to all different types." Nowhere has that worked better to his advantage than on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, which Rolling Stone breaks down track in the pages that follow. By Kory Grow

Play video

The Lively Ones, ‘Surf Rider’

The jumpy rhythms and sinewy melodies of "Surf Rider" originally began life as another song, "Spudnik," by another band, the Ventures. But the Orange County surf rockers the Lively Ones were respectful and asked the Ventures if they would allow them to use a few "musical phrases" from their song.

"We were pretty surprised when 'Surf Rider' became a hit as a note-for-note cover of 'Spudnik,'" the Ventures' Bob Bogle lead guitarist said in the band's biography. "We had no problem with that, as long as they directed royalties to Nokie [Edwards, bass]." Later, when the Ventures needed another surf song to follow-up "Pipeline" in 1963 they just rerecorded "Spudnik" and called it "Surf Rider."

As a result of the Lively Ones' recording on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack making it into the end credits as John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson walk out of the diner, the Ventures have gotten multiple platinum plaques for the song – something rhythm guitarist Don Wilson said initially was a reminder they had even written the track in the first place. 

Show Comments