Song of the Day #308: ‘I Am Waiting’ – The Rolling Stones

rushmoreI love highlighting songs featured in movies because it’s a marriage of my two great artistic passions — the peanut butter and chocolate of the entertainment world.

In some cases, a great song is made greater by its association with a movie. In other cases, a great song brings something fresh to a movie in need of the injection. And then there are cases like today’s example, where a song that never made an impression on me is suddenly revealed as great through its use in a film.

I’d owned The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath album for awhile before seeing Rushmore — I’d read it was among their best and it contains two of my favorite early Stones songs, ‘Paint it Black’ and ‘Under My Thumb.’ I didn’t listen to it religiously but I’d heard the whole thing through several times. And yet I’d never noticed ‘I Am Waiting,’ a gem tucked away toward the end of the record.

But after seeing it in this scene from Rushmore, a film on my short list of favorite movies ever, I now adore it. Not a single note changed, but it suddenly worked on me on a whole new level. Is it that the song now conjures up the images and mood of one of the strongest segments in this film? Probably. But I also think I just never paid it enough attention until it was pointed out to me in a new way.

I like how the song is constructed, with the choruses and verses switched. The “I am waiting” refrain draw you in almost hypnotically, building up anticipation for the release of the more passionate verses. The song is a perfect compliment to this passage of the film — ‘November’ — because all of the characters are lost in their own loneliness, in need of connection… waiting for someone to come out of somewhere.

I read a review of Rushmore once that marveled at how subtly the film carries through one of its most important underlying threads — the effect the loss of his mother has had on Max. This sequence is a fine example, as it finishes with Max bringing the plant Margaret Yang gives him to his mother’s grave.

I am waiting, I am waiting (oh yeah, oh yeah)
I am waiting, I am waiting (oh yeah, oh yeah)
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere

You can’t hold out, you can’t hold out
Oh yeah, oh yeah
You can’t hold out, you can’t hold out
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere

See it come along and
Don’t know where it’s from
Oh, yes you will find out
Well, it happens all the time
It’s censored from our minds
You’ll find out

Slow or fast, slow or fast
Oh yeah, oh yeah
End at last, end at last
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere

Stand up coming years
And escalation fears
Oh, yes we will find out
Well, like a withered stone
Fears will pierce your bones
You’ll find out

Oh we’re waiting, oh we’re waiting
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Oh we’re waiting, oh we’re waiting
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere
Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere
Oh we’re waiting, oh we’re waiting
Oh we’re waiting, oh were waiting…

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #308: ‘I Am Waiting’ – The Rolling Stones

  1. Amy says:

    I have to see this film again. It became very clear as I watched this scene how few of the details of it I remember. I was a bit surprised when you don’t actually see Max put the plant on his mother’s grave. How do you know he wasn’t just passing through? 😉

    Regardless, I see what you mean about the song. It has the repeated structure that I find so annoying in songs. Not just in terms of words but sounds. It’s somewhat effective in this song, especially as it serves this scene, but it’s not a song I would ever listen to on its own because of that. And it likely made me downright anxious as I was watching the film. Though I don’t remember feeling that way, I can’t imagine I didn’t.

    I tend to appreciate even more films that make almost ironic use of the music used. We’ve discussed Tarantino time and again on this subject. Still, when I think of him deciding what music to set that disturbing taunting scene to in Reservoir Dogs, it’s difficult to imagine the journey that led him to the “Ah! I’ll use ‘Stuck in the Middle'” moment.

    The marriage in this scene is far more obvious, and I find it less interesting because of that fact, but I know that Anderson takes a page out of Tarantino’s book when it comes to the way he uses music in his films, so I think I just need to watch the whole thing again to appreciate the overall effect.

  2. Clay says:

    I think they both take a page out of Martin Scorsese’s book, actually. 🙂

    The ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ example is interesting because, though the tone of the song and the scene are certainly juxtaposed, the sentiment is pretty literal… the hostage cop is most definitely stuck in the middle of that place with Mr. Blonde.

  3. Amy says:

    And Scorsese takes a page out of… hmmm…. that’s an interesting question. Who was the first filmmaker to use music so intentionally in his films? And, yes, the literal chorus is perfectly suited to that poor guy’s situation. And, far more importantly, to Mr. Orange’s entire predicament.

  4. Clay says:

    Probably the French New Wave directors, who were also an influence for both Anderson and Tarantino. And they may be the end of the line.

  5. Dana says:

    Certainly, this style is derivative of French auteurs such as François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette. I, of course, far prefer to watch the original works of these directors over le copy cat of the American pretenders Vive la France! 🙂

    As for the song–it’s okay, but nothing all that special. It’s hard to hear early Rolling Stones songs like this one without recalling the fairly dead-on parody of this style depicted in Spinal Tap–the early years..

  6. Clay says:

    With Ed Begley Jr. as drummer John “Stumpy” Pepys, who died in a bizarre gardening accident!

  7. pegclifton says:

    I too need to see Rushmore again because I don’t remember the music. It was one of my favorite movies. It’s interesting that you’re discussing the French New Wave directors, as I am involved (slightly) with a small film festival at our Town Hall Theatre this summer showing 3 french films–Rules of the Game (Renoir), Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda–a woman), and I think Shoot the Piano Player (Truffault); I’ll listen for the music. 🙂

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