Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, his "spiritual sequel" to Dazed & Confused, follows Jake (Blake Jenner) as the young man eases into life at a Texas college in 1980. The film can’t capture every moment of the fading days of summer, but as Jake finds his footing amid the competitive personalities on the school's baseball team Linklater cues up a rich soundtrack to evoke the lusts and lazy days enjoyed by a bunch of seemingly untouchable campus kings.
Music plays in nearly every scene, in bars, clubs and restaurants, in dorm rooms and cars, at parties. Background tunes are silenced when the guys play baseball, but even then Linklater uses Devo's "Whip It" to soundtrack some of the action. A song may set a scene's temperature, or just add a bounce, a vibe. Music grounds the story in time -- listen close and you'll hear more than a few choices from the soundtrack to Urban Cowboy, which created months of radio fodder in 1980.
More than forty songs are heard in the film, many of which are recognizable hits. Linklater often hides the deepest cuts in a deeper mix than the loud placement used for crowd-pleasing highlights, but some of the film's better character commentary is encoded in those lesser-known cuts. We've highlighted seven choices, spanning disco, punk, and rock.
John Stewart - "Gold"
We'll start off easy, just like Linklater does. Not with the film's opening track ("My Sharona" by the Knack, though I really prefer the mocking Dead Kennedys cover) but with John Stewart's 1979 hit, heard as Jake explores the baseball house. Those opening keys may ring a bell, but the song's crude stomp and Stewart's unrefined midrange may have you wondering why this was a hit... until Stevie Nicks comes in. Oh. That's why it was big. (Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham also contributes unmistakable guitar.) A Kingston Trio member and hit-maker for other acts (you've probably heard 'Daydream Believer'), Stewart has this LP as his only major solo outing. The "music biz by way of the gold rush" lyrics are pretty good, but the opening line always reminds me of a horror movie. That doesn't hurt.
Brian Eno - "Driving Me Backwards" (1974)
You'll hear only a snippet of this cut from Brian Eno's first solo album Here Come the Warm Jets as Jake passes by Willoughby's room en route to ask his own roommate for a little private time. Even in his headlong effort to get laid, Jake slows, perhaps mesmerized by this song, one of the most anti-sex songs in rock. Even if you don't know the track, the weirdness of Eno's tune is impossible to miss -- the vocal wail colliding with that out of tune piano over a 4/4 cudgel beat that sounds like a large man slowly rocking back and forth from left foot to right, over and over and over. We don't know much about Willoughby at this point, but as we get to know him the jarring double-tracked vocals start to make a lot of sense.
Belle Epoque - "Miss Broadway" (1977)
Good luck getting this one out of your head, however much you claim to hate disco. The genre's string melodies and hooky choruses slink through the film's first half, when the guys care about little more than quick sex. This track, a long jam grown from a simple confection of crisp drums and bubble bass, plays when a party at the baseball house has moved into full-on hookup phase. It's easy to dismiss disco, even now, but disco's global appeal made it an unusual genre. Artists from many cultures and nations made these dance-floor bangers. Disco was a pretty inclusive pop movement. Belle Epoque is a trio out of Paris featuring singers from Paris, Cape Verde, and Atlanta, as well as some unnamed voices. Evelyne Lenton's lead vocals are raw but rich; she'd probably be just as well suited to belt out punk or new wave songs.
Big Boys - "Frat Cars" (1980)
Here's the most obscure song in the film, especially for punk neophytes and non-Texans. When Jake and a couple baseball buddies trail Jake's old high school friend to a punk club, this is the first song played by the band on stage. The Big Boys hate kids like Jake, and the lyrics of this ripper are bluntly critical of all the stuff the team loves. The band was one of the bigger acts in a small but rich Texas punk scene that thrived between the late '70s and early '90s. They incorporated funk influences and leaned into skate-punk tendencies before many other groups got there. "Heartbeat", the second song on the Frat Cars 7", features that funk tilt, which is echoed in later songs by California bands like the Minutemen and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The BusBoys - "Minimum Wage"
When Jake is exploring the theater kids' party late in the film we hear this track from a band who would go on to be familiar to '80s comedy enthusiasts. The BusBoys appear in 48 Hrs., and their song "Cleanin' Up the Town" is the most exuberant sound in Ghostbusters. Years earlier, the LA-based BusBoys started out with a more New Wave sound; their first LP, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll has sounds akin to Danny Elfman's band Oingo Boingo, early Devo, straight-up rock and even a little punk. In this film more than ever, Linklater seems to be drawing on his own experiences, so this song stands out by offering the perspective of black characters Linklater doesn't often prioritize in his films. Given the LP’s openly political lyrics it's not a huge surprise this one didn’t become better known in its time, but it is a shame. Dig in now.
Dire Straits - "Hand in Hand"
Everybody Wants Some!! isn't big on make-out songs, but this Dire Straits tune tracks the film's major romantic moment. Mark Knofpler's band had a big hit with their debut LP thanks to single "Sultans of Swing", and released a softer sophomore effort a year later. Then they imported producer Jimmy Iovine (reportedly in part because of Iovine's work on "Because the Night", also featured in this film) who had worked extensively with Bruce Springsteen. The producer, in turn, brought in Roy Bittan from the E Street Band to play on the band's third release, and first legitimately great album, Making Movies. The result, in particular this song, has plenty of Springsteen flavor, but that doesn't undercut Knopfler's songwriting, singing, and playing.
Sniff 'n' the Tears - "Driver's Seat"
Likely the film's best-known “little-known” track thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson, who put it to work in Boogie Nights, this one-hit wonder's claim to fame is a good fade-out jam. Everybody Wants Some!! is pretty low-key when it comes to examining the likely future for its characters, but just as with the Big Boys tune, Linklater might be using this song to offer a little commentary on the sly. "Driver's Seat" isn't a road trip song -- it's a minor break-up tune. Taking the song apart, the takeaway is "keep moving forward”. The film’s ending seems optimistic enough, but if we’ve learned anything from Linklater’s aggregated observations over the years, it’s that even Jake’s life isn’t likely to be as easy as this first weekend at college.