It's difficult to choose just one song from Baby Driver's pulsing soundtrack that fully captures this film's on-screen horsepower. That said, when Baby reveals that his favorite song — his "killer track" in the film's language — is Queen's "Brighton Rock," audiences should know it's only a matter of time before the soundtrack revels in the blazing guitars of Brian May and company.
Sure enough, fans were handsomely rewarded with music-injected action in the film's climax, a pedal-to-the-metal showdown between Baby and rogue robber Buddy. Though this scene delivered plenty of high-stakes auto wreckage, the true power of this scene is provided by Queen's riffing masterpiece "Brighton Rock."
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
After running over every obstacle keeping them from driving off together, Baby and Deborah are finally about to make their getaway, only to run into Jon Hamm's Buddy, who seeks retribution for the death of his wife. In the driver's seat of a stolen police car, Buddy tees up the conflict for this scene like a pissed-off emcee, mocking Baby that "Brighton Rock" is about to be the soundtrack for their final battle.
As Buddy cranks the speakers and redlines the engine of his 5.7L HEMI Dodge Charger Pursuit, audiences can almost hear the countdown to action when the opening cut from Queen's 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack amps up with electric heat — this is the moment we've been waiting for.
The intro to Baby Driver establishes director Edgar Wright's ability to expertly punctuate action scenes with the drive of high-energy rock songs, and saving this track for the film's final battle elevates the moment to extraordinary proportions. It effectively raises the stakes for the characters and the audience. But what is it about Queen's often-overlooked classic that makes "Brighton Rock" the perfect accompaniment to Baby Driver's ultimate showdown?
Queen Brings The Noise — And A Killer Solo
Queen's music is operatic and theatrical, largely thanks to Freddie Mercury's vocal brilliance. The crown jewel of "Brighton Rock" isn't Mercury's voice, however, but Brian May's godlike guitar work. The riff often credited as one of May's greatest compositions for the band, and the solo is a masterwork.
Oddly enough, while Queen was recording Sheer Heart Attack, May was relegated to a hospital bed, stricken with a virulent strain of hepatitis and a stomach ulcer. Feeling like he had let down his bandmates during a career-defining time, May's angst and frustration evolved into the frantic and symphonic guitar duet that is a hallmark of "Brighton Rock."
What makes the "Brighton Rock" solo so iconic is that Brian May mimics the sound of two guitars with just one instrument. May's secret? Two effects pedals run through separate amplifiers, resulting in two distinct, overloaded guitar sounds without any feedback or interference.
Not only does May's technique add harmonic layers to the blues-metal solo, but the twin guitar sound perfectly parallels the two drivers clashing in a head-to-head burnout to the sound of roaring V8 engines.
"Brighton Rock" moves into the foreground to create the hyper-theatrical atmosphere of Baby and Buddy's final showdown. It also provides the drive that allows an ordinary kid to shift into high gear and overtake his opponent. When Buddy sees red, there's nothing that can stop him, and his previous experience as a getaway driver makes him Baby's biggest threat. Without the majesty of Queen pumping into his ears, it's tough to imagine Baby having the edge over his more experienced, more vengeful nemesis.
Thankfully, Baby has Mercury and May with him behind the wheel, and the love of a woman propelling him to victory. This love not only motivates Baby to defeat Buddy, but it is also a major theme of Baby's favorite track, making its inclusion in this scene all the more significant.
'O Rock Of Ages, Do Not Crumble, Love Is Breathing Still'
Though "Brighton Rock" earns its reputation thanks to May's ripping solo, the lyrics nicely dovetail with Baby and Deborah's romantic narrative. "Brighton Rock" is about two star-crossed lovers who meet while on vacation, presumably in the seaside town of Brighton, England. In the song, Jimmy and Jenny want nothing more than to live blissfully in the fantasy of their vacation, but they must leave because of responsibilities to family and lovers back home. Despite their separation, nothing can stop their love, and the two stay in contact even though they fear being discovered.
Much like Jenny and Jimmy, Baby and Deborah repeatedly tease the idea of getting into a car and putting their past lives in the rearview mirror with nothing but the open road and great tunes as their road trip allies. However, it seems that just about everything and everyone stands in the way of their dream being realized — the last of which is Buddy.
Even one of Buddy's throwaway lines — meant to lure Baby out of hiding — is a nod to another pair of star-crossed lovers:
"Romeo, Romeo — wherefore art thou Romeo?"
Though Baby and Deborah's fate ends quite differently than that of Romeo and Juliet's, the idea of forbidden love is echoed in "Brighton Rock." The song delivers both high-volume energy and a powerful message about the strength of love.
Queen Makes The Scene
Far from a background track that fades behind the on-screen action, "Brighton Rock" is front and center for Baby's final showdown, making this scene one of the film's most high-octane moments.
The song's historical context and its lyrical message show that #EdgarWright purposefully chose this song for the final act of Baby Driver, as it not only compliments the battle being waged on screen, but also adds a layer of meaning that resonates for both Baby and Deborah. Edgar Wright deserves applause for his marriage of action and music, as there's no greater union than fast cars and the sheer power of Queen's rock supremacy.
Baby Driver is available on digital on September 12 — get it on iTunes!
Did your "killer track" appear in the soundtrack for Baby Driver? Which song do you think best highlighted the on-screen action?
(Sources: Ultimate Classic Rock)