Regardless of how you felt about the ending of the series, one aspect of this show has never disappointed me: the music. This show had more kick-ass music than any other TV series of its kind. And the music has been integral to Supernatural, whether it’s the classic rock or the scary scoring.
As creator and original showrunner Eric Kripke explains, “This music isn’t disposable. It’s like nothing on any show on this network. That was something that was really important to me, coming into the Pilot. I’m from a small town in Ohio and this is the music I listen to. I was a huge Zeppelin fan. So when it came time to write and produce the Pilot, it was important not to have the normal network music. I even wrote in the script, 'Cue music. And you can take your anemic alternative pop and shove it up your ass.'”
“There’s a real energy in the Midwest,” he says, “to miles and miles of flat farmland and two-lane blacktops that stretch into infinity, and you’re jamming classic rock as loud as it can go. There’s something so mythic, so American about that.”
Sam: I swear man, you gotta update your cassette tape collection.
Sam: Well, for one they are cassette tapes, and two…(pulls out a few cassette tapes). Black Sabbath? Motorhead? Metallica? It’s the greatest hits of mullet rock.
Dean: Grabs a cassette from Sam and pop it in the player. House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cake hole.
And so it’s been from the first episode. Kripke sees himself as a sort of School of Rock missionary, although, sadly, not all gospel is featured. Zeppelin, for instance, won’t be preached. “I’d like to use Traveling Riverside Blues” or “Ramble On,” Kripke said, “But Zeppelin will not sell their songs to anybody but Cameron Crowe because he traveled with them when they were on tour, and they’re also a billion dollars a song, rough estimate.”
The cost of the music has always been an issue for the show. From Season three onwards, as other budget demands didn’t leave room for it, fans noticed a marked decrease in the amount of classic rock used on the show. They complained, loudly. At a Supernatural convention in 2011, Jensen Ackles sat the complaint had been heeded, and efforts were made to bring more rock back into the soundtrack.
The most recognizable is the 1976 hit “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas. It’s the closest thing Supernatural has to a theme song. The song was first used over the montage at the beginning of the second episode, Salvation, and it has subsequently been used at the beginning of the final episode every season except the last. In the series finale, the song doesn’t play at the beginning, but rather over the Impala’s radio as Dean drives through heaven.
It’s obvious the writers gave a lot of thought to the music selection and editing. For example, in Season 2, when Dean has repaired the Impala and takes her back on the road again, AC/DC’s “Back in Black” is the fitting accompaniment.
When they do manage to get away, and make their way back to where they’ve parked the Impala, the a capella vocals of Styx’s “Renegade” announce, “Oh, mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.” The song’s timing allows the music engineers to extend the heartbeat-like bass drum interlude that intersperses the next few vocal lines, until Dean looks at Sam as they leave and says, “We are so screwed,” and the song echoes with “The jig is up, the news is out, they’ve finally found me.” What fun! By the way, this is, according to convention panels, one of Jensen Ackles’ favorite musical cues. It’s mine, too.
The stark arrangement of the Appalachian dirge “Oh Death” reinforces the chilling effect, and the lyrics are perfect. “My name is Death and the end is here.”
Just as important as the rock soundtrack is the incidental score, the music composed specifically for the show.
Often, the musical scoring goes completely unnoticed by the viewer, but without it the effect of the show would be completely different and have less impact.
Supernatural has a wonderful original score with many recurring motifs that fans instantly associate with a broment, or the Impala, or a gory death. Like the show itself, the score expands to cover many genres, rock, folk big band or a tribute to old monster movie.
Jay Gruska, along with Christopher Lennertz, are the composers who have been responsible or Supernatural’ original scores from the beginning, and they have won numerous awards for their work on the show. Jay has create some of Supernatural’s most instantly recognizable music, such as “Americana” which most memorably accompanies Chuck’s narration in Swan Song, which also contains the motif popularly known in fandom as the Winchester Family theme.
Then we added a bit of rock guitar on occasion due to Dean’s musical taste. On top of that base, we add elements of local color or inspiration from a certain time or place, depending on the setting of individual episodes. Jay and I have also explored the addition of unusual organic instruments of Americana, such as dulcimers and acoustic guitars, but played in an unconventional way. Considering the boys’ journey across America, it seemed to fit perfectly.”
After researching the Supernatural' music, I've decided to dive back into the series one more time, specifically to listen to it.
I’m also going to put together my own personal play list of favorite songs from the show. I’ll share that list with you here next week.
I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. See you here next week with Writer Sandy’s Supernatural playlist.