2019 Year-End Charts

Netflix's 'The End of the F***ing World': How They Picked the Soundtrack (And Scored Blur's Graham Coxon)

Courtesy of Netflix
Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden in The End of the F***ing World.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

When Jonathan Entwistle started picking out the music to accompany his breakout Netflix series The End of the F***king World, he had quite a bit of ideas in mind. Around 700 in fact.

For years, the 33-year-old director says, he built a massive playlist featuring hundreds and hundreds of songs with Charles Forsman, who created the comic book the show is based on. They would pick out songs they felt paired well with the surreal world of the two teen protagonists, Alyssa and James.

“Once we shot the show, we started to craft around that [playlist],” he says. ”I realized we could be really on the nose with the music cues.”

Set in the U.K., the show’s plot lends itself to a rather wild musical ride; it has a David Lynch-meets-Quentin Tarantino vibe at times, mixed with a bit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for good measure. Alyssa and James throw off the day-to-day drudgery of their lives and ditch school and life for a twisted love story road trip, featuring some petty crime, some rather violent crime, and a mad dash from the law. But it’s that teen aspect that Entwistle says he wanted to hone in on when choosing songs — and he largely avoided anything contemporary.

“We made an adult show about teenagers,” he says. “The dawn of teenagers was the ‘50s and because we were playing that whole creepy, suburban thing, I automatically went to a ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s doo-wop thing. I think that’s the saddest music in the world.”

Viewers will likely recognize some of the songs right away, like Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town,” or one of the more “recent” tunes — Mazzy Star’s version of Arthur Lee’s “Five String Serenade” from their 1993 hit album So Tonight I Might See. But a lot of the music he used has a heavy throwback quality and is rather obscure. He says Shazam data has shown him people are feverishly searching for what they’re hearing.

“People were going insane searching for the music,” he says. “To make it affordable we had to use obscure tracks.”

Some of those tracks may be “obscure” to some, but common to music junkies and crate diggers, include Bernadette Carroll’s “Laughing on the Outside,” Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love,” Shuggie Otis’s “Sweet Thang,” and the Buzzcocks’ “Why Can’t I Touch It?”

To pair music with scenes, Entwistle says some songs just jumped out right away, but some were a bit trickier. Ultimately, though, he loved pairing sad songs with happy scenes and happy songs with sad scenes. (A particularly brutal scene featured Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” the irony dripping alongside the blood viewers see.)

He says there’s no plan to release the soundtrack in an official capacity — he’s made a Spotify playlist with the music in running order that features all 28 songs. But he did pull off another coup in getting Graham Coxon to write the original score and contribute some original songs as well — the Blur guitarist’s first foray into scoring. That album of full music is out now digitally, with a vinyl version due out this March.

“I’m such a huge fanboy, he was almost impossible for me to work with,” Entwistle says. “He was writing four or five songs a day. He was writing an album based on the show, instead of writing to the picture.”

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