Music

Working With Jane’s Addiction, Turned Down By Springsteen: ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Music Supervisor Sounds Off

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Over the past few years, FX Networks’ Sons Of Anarchy has roared its way to being one of the hottest shows on TV, cable status be damned. While most of the credit is due to the unflinching writing and the great acting, the show’s music is definitely an important component of SOA‘s success. They’ve just released the Sons Of Anarchy: Volume 2 soundtrack, which contains a couple of new takes on classic songs recorded specifically for the show, including one that never made primetime but was too good to be relegated to the cutting room floor.

CBS Local spoke with SOA Music Supervisor Bob Thiele Jr. about the songs that the show has used, one song it hasn’t used and at least one that they’ve tried to get.

One of the gems of the Volume 2 collection is Jane’s Addiction’s cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy For The Devil.” Longtime Jane’s fans might think that they already have that song in their collection, covering it on their 1987 self-titled debut album. As it turns out, they recorded a new version for Sons. Neither Thiele or series creator Kurt Sutter knew they’d recorded it already.

“We weren’t familiar with their first record,” Thiele says, noting that it was released on a small independent label, Triple X Records. “I always assumed (1988’s) Nothing’s Shocking (their first for Warner Brothers) was the first one.” Unaware of Jane’s’ first pass at the song, Theile asked them to cover “Sympathy” to his specifications: “I sent them a rough sketch of me singing and playing guitar on the song. They responded immediately. They were out of their record deal and finishing up their tour, it was perfect timing. Dave [Navarro] obviously is a fan of the show.” (Navarro appears in two episodes of the show this season.)

“Sympathy” will be featured during a season-closing montage, which is a tradition with the show. “We always end the season with a pretty big musical montage, we did ‘House Of The Rising Sun,’ ‘Hey, Hey, My My,’ and ‘Gimme Shelter.’  Kurt had the idea for ‘Sympathy,’ so I went into the studio and started playing with the arrangement.  Then I played it for Kurt, and he liked it.  Then we discussed ‘Who’s gonna sing it?’  You always shoot for a big name, like an Eddie Vedder or a Tom Petty, but we haven’t been very successful in our ‘dream-casting.’  But with ‘Sympathy,’ the first name that came up was Jane’s Addiction.”

Another classic that gets a new remake is Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” covered by Alison Mosshart, the frontwoman for The Kills and The Dead Weather (the latter band also features Jack White). It was her second time recording a track for the show.  “I have huge respect for her.  I’m a massive fan. In season four, we had a montage to ‘What A Wonderful World'” — written, incidentally, by his father, Bob Thiele Sr. — “I did this tender but dark version of it.” He thought Mosshart would be the perfect voice to deliver his version of the song.   “It turned out that she is a massive fan of the show, she sang it, it was great.”

This season, when it was decided that “The Passenger” should be used for another sequence, he called on Mosshart again. But he got vetoed and her version never made the show.  “I really strongly felt that we should do a cover, so I recorded it, and reached out to Allison, she was totally down for it.  But Kurt was very attached to the Iggy version, so that’s what was used in the show.” But he felt that Mosshart’s take was great, and included it on the soundtrack anyway.

The soundtrack also features a new take on Lulu’s pop classic “To Sir With Love,” sung by series co-star Katey Sagal. Thiele has long been friends with the singer/actress — he co-produced her debut album Well… in 1994 (recorded during the height of her Married With Children fame).  Sagal, who is married to Kurt Sutter, generally sings one song per season. “Katy has an affinity for that white soul of the ’60s.  So much singing today is like the American Idol thing, all the melisma and over-singing, Katy understands control and subtlety.”One song that Sons hasn’t been able to get is Bruce Springsteen‘s “Adam Raised A Cain.” “Kurt had the idea to use that for the end of season three, but we wanted to do our own version of it.  We couldn’t get it, because Springsteen wouldn’t license a remake. I don’t think he was familiar with our show.” Referencing the show’s ever-increasing ratings, he adds, “It’s possible that if we tried it again, we wouldn’t get that resistance. We were disappointed when we couldn’t get it. I don’t think we got a definitive ‘no,’ but in television, you don’t have the luxury of time, because you have to be on the air in three weeks.”

Have they been turned down by anyone else? Not exactly, but there is one group they want to approach but they haven’t yet: “I don’t think the Grateful Dead would be keen to license because they tend to have issues with violence (laughs).  Also, we don’t have a lot of money. We do amazing things with our limited budget. That’s why we do so many covers, we can’t afford to use the masters. Rather than do a sound-a-like of ‘Sympathy For The Devil,’ we created a version with our own sound.”

See the “Sympathy” montage on the season finale of Sons of Anarchy this Tuesday December 4 at 10 p.m. ET on FX. Season six is expected to kick off September 2013.

Brian Ives, CBS Local 

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