‘Licorice Pizza’ soundtrack: a guide to the 1973 music time capsule

As ever with Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies, the soundtrack to ‘Licorice Pizza’, the new movie starring Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman set in the San Fernando Valley of 1973, is a real mood – but we bet you don’t know all the artists. So allow NME to be your guide

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‘July Tree’ – Nina Simone


Summer love, which “blooms for the world to see”, is the topic of this tender track from the first lady of jazz.


Feels: Romantic

‘Stumblin’ In’ – Chris Norman & Suzi Quatro


Though this duet with the singer of Smokie was a late-1970s hit, 1973 was the year that Suzi Quatro broke through with her hit ‘Can The Can’, introducing the world to a new type of female pop star: denim-clad, gender atypical and probably knowing more swear words than you do now.

Feels: Rockin’

‘Sometimes I’m Happy’ – Johnny Guarnieri

New York jazz pianist and singer Guarnieri was a West Coast transplant in his later years, where he set up stall at the Tail o’ the Cock restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in North Hollywood and played for the likes of Marlon Brando, Jack Lemmon, Mel Brooks and Clint Eastwood.

Feels: Elegant

‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive’ – Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters


This 1944 song became a standard thanks to its infectiously upbeat message. “You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum / Bring gloom down to the minimum,” it says. Amen to that.

Feels: Unfailingly positive (obviously)

‘Blue Sands (feat. Buddy Collette)’ – Chico Hamilton Quintet


There’s a tight tension at play in this slow-burning track from Los Angeles jazz group Chico Hamilton Quartet, notable for having a cello as its lead instrument. Enjoy this one with a Martini.

Feels: Sophistimacated

‘But You’re Mine’ – Sonny & Cher


A companion song of sorts to ‘I Got You Babe’, the debut hit from the happiest hippies in town (until their divorce in 1975, at least), ‘But You’re Mine’ is another song about the contentment of two outsiders in love – something the young stars of Licorice Pizza might identify with.

Feels: Cute

‘My Ding-A-Ling’ – Chuck Berry

Rock‘n’roll badboy Chuck Berry had his biggest hit of his career with this track in 1972, two decades after it was first written by Dave Bartholemew. It sounds like cheerful, childish nonsense, but his “ding-a-ling” is, of course, a reference to his chuck and two berries.

Feels: Cheeky

‘Peace Frog’ – The Doors


Taken from the band’s fifth album ‘Morrison Hotel’, this 1970 track is about as funky – and as far-out – as the LA band got. Its lyrics are obliquely biographical, referencing, among other things, a tragic road accident Jim Morrison witnessed as a child and his 1967 arrest for exposing himself on stage in New Haven, Connecticut.

Feels: Threatening

‘Let Me Roll It’ – Paul McCartney And Wings


Still a staple of Sir Paul’s live sets, this bluesy track from 1973’s game-changing Wings album ‘Band On The Run’ came from a place of real passion – he’d recently had his marijuana plants confiscated. Let him roll it, indeed!

Feels: Frustrated

‘Life On Mars?’ – David Bowie

Bowie’s melodramatic masterpiece, which provides the soundtrack to Licorice Pizza’s brilliant trailer, seems like it’s another moment where he had his head in outer space. Look again, and its lyrics describe a particularly earthbound early 1970s dystopia.

Feels: Apocalyptic

‘Slip Away’ – Clarence Carter


Southern soul star Clarence Carter’s bandmate Marcus Daniel wrote this track 20 minutes after appealing to God for divine inspiration. “I wrote about what I knew,” he said. “Back then, I was a bad womaniser.”

Feels: Remorseful

‘Diamond Girl’ (Album Version) – Seals and Crofts


Seals and Crofts epitomised the soft rock sound that swept the US in the 1970s. You don’t have to have a moustache to enjoy the title track of their fifth album, released in 1973, but it helps.

Feels: Grown-up

‘Greensleeves’ – Mason Williams

Unlikely as it seems, American guitarist Mason Williams had a hit in 1969 with a track written by Henry VIII, the British monarch whose hunger for grub was matched only for his hunger for wives. It’s long been disputed that Henry actually wrote ‘Greensleeves’ himself, but he wasn’t someone you’d argue with at the time.

Feels: Medieval

‘Barabajagal’ – Donovan

The hippy-dippy British singer-songwriter hardened up his sound with the help of the Jeff Beck group, who provide backing on this 1969 track. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the breakout star of 1973, Suzie Quatro, on backing vocals.

Feels: Silly

‘Softly Whispering I Love You’ – The Congregation

Ready for something really, really weird? The Congregation was a chart-busting British choir. Yes, exactly what you’re imagining – a school choir, but grown-up and wearing turtle necks.

Feels: Creepy

‘Licorice Pizza’ – Jonny Greenwood

No stranger to NME, Radiohead’s guitarist has forged a special creative alliance with Licorice Pizza writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, composing scores and compiling soundtracks for his last four movies.

Feels: Evocative

‘If You Could Read My Mind’ – Gordon Lightfoot


Canadian crooner Gordon Lightfoot scored a worldwide hit in 1971 with this song about his divorce a year earlier.

Feels: Lovelorn

‘Walk Away’ – The James Gang

Hairy rockers The James Gang were as no-nonsense as Cleveland, Ohio, the Midwest City that birthed them. This track, written by the group’s Joe Walsh, later of The Eagles, adds country flavours to the funk-rock sound that forms the backbone of the Licorice Pizza soundtrack.

Feels: Itchy

‘Lisa, Listen To Me’ – Blood Sweat & Tears


Another outfit whose music could be described as being from the vexed genre of funk-rock, New York’s enormous (in number) band Blood Sweat & Tears popped up at the tail-end of the ‘60s looking like a religious cult and captured something of the times.

Feels: Hairy

‘Tomorrow May Not Be Your Day’ – Taj Mahal


Not a band, as you might assume from the name, Taj Mahal was the sobriquet of Harlem bluesman Henry St. Claire Fredericks, Jr. But there’s little of the blues to be found in this sunny-side-up country-rock song that brings this brilliant tracklist to a close.

Feels: Feel-good! There, we made it.

Find the Licorice Pizza soundtrack on streaming services now

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