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Breaking Bad Oldies: The Playlist

The classic pop, jazz, and Latin oldies from AMC's "Breaking Bad" series

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Breaking Bad Oldies: The Playlist

Retro "Breaking Bad" fan art

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A true instant classic, AMC-TV's Breaking Bad broke ground in any number of ways for television drama. But it also mixed AM hits and true obscurities from the '50s, '60s, and '70s into its pivotal scenes as a way of creating social commentary, or at least a new context, for all the bizarre events unfolding in the ABQ; the songs prominently featured in the foreground mirrored the absurdity of the show's conceit -- a world in which the most normal of settings became a background for something completely foreign. These over two dozen songs, which you can download legally right here, drive that idea home.

WARNING! Possible spoilers ahead for those of you who haven't seen every episode. Proceed with caution.

  1. "Mango Walk," The In Crowd
    Walt begins his journey into the world of meth by stealing lab equipment from his school, accompanied by a obscure but very authentic slice of '70s Kingston reggae.
  2. "You're Moving Me," Clyde McPhatter
    Former Drifters lead Clyde, singing on Walt's car radio as he encounters a staggering Krazy-8, demonstrates just how well developed this show's sense of irony really is.
  3. "Didn't I," Darondo
    "Ken" may usually win, but not when an obviously angry and perhaps jealous Walt torches his car, releasing the kind of endorphins that probably feel like this gorgeous slice of rare Bay Area groove.
  4. "It Is Such a Good Night," Charlie Steinmann Orchestra and Singers
    Adult Swim had already used this easy listening samba in their (in)famous bumpers, but Breaking Bad uses it as a soundtrack for Jesse selling meth, and that makes for a much deeper and more pointed irony.
  5. "It's Such a Pretty World Today," Nancy Sinatra
    A countrypolitan near-classic that plays outside the convenience store while a very pregnant Skyler recklessly smokes, suggesting that she's desperately trying to hold her new reality together.
  6. "Peanut Vendor," Alvin "Red" Tyler and the Gyros
    New Orleans' legendary sax master lends some spice to what is arguably the most popular version of this Latin-jazz standard, used here for another, uh, sales montage.
  7. "Good Morning Freedom," Blue Mink
    None of their UK bubblegum hits of the early 70s made it to the American charts, but this group of session singers, songwriters, and musicians individually had their fingerprints all over the decade's transatlantic rock and pop scene. (Their feelgood brand of pop is also apparently good for driving into the desert.)
  8. "Enchanted," The Platters
    It wasn't one of the Platters' bigger hits, but this vocal group's heavenly aura apparently matches that of a first time heroin nod pretty well.
  9. "A Horse With No Name," America
    It might be a little too obvious to use a song about being lost in the desert in a show set there, but it's just the kind of mellow '70s pop hit Walt would sing along to. Given what happens when the cop stops him, however, America apparently didn't mellow him out quite enough.
  10. "Tush," ZZ Top
    No way is this the first time this boogie classic was played on a jukebox during a fistfight. Although hopefully there's not usually a DEA agent involved.
  11. "In the Valley of the Sun," Buddy Stuart
    It's yet another desert song, but a significantly older and cheerier one, perhaps mimicking that second chance Gus has just given Walt.
  12. "Sun Shine on Me," Buddy Stuart
    A rare Breaking Bad twofer from this Crosbyesque big band vocalist, bookending Walt's new start in his new lab.
  13. "Ginza Samba," Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete
    If the piano sounds familiar, it's because Guaraldi's trio also performed the music on all those Peanuts specials, including "Linus and Lucy." This curious Oriental/Latin ditty backs Gale's first cook.
  14. "He Venido," Los Zafiros
    This excellent group were essentially Cuba's answer to the Platters, which probably explains why their song accompanies the destruction of Jesse's RV.
  15. "Windy," The Association
    The irony comes down in sheets as thick as lead when the show's resident tweaker prostitute goes about her depressing day to a sunshine pop classic. Worse, the recontextualization works so well it makes you wonder about the Association's actual intent. Just a little.
  16. "Crapa Pelada," Quartetto Cetra
    Prewar Italian jazz harmony novelties? Sure, why not. Somehow it seems logical that Gale would prepare dinner to this one.
  17. "Os Grilos," Walter Wanderley
    Brazilian organist Wanderley specialized in the bossa nova, which is apparently what you want when stashing drug money in your crawlspace. The title translates as "The Crickets," if that helps your understanding.
  18. "Scrambled Eggs," Nat Adderly and Wes Montgomery
    Breakfast and jazz instrumentals both play an integral part in Breaking Bad, so the two were bound to meet at some point!
  19. "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," The Peddlers
    A Mancunian pop-jazz trio so authentic they've been sampled several times over by hip-hop acts, which may explain this track's presence in yet another cook montage.
  20. "Goin' Down," The Monkees
    You don't normally associate the '60s best bubblegummers with jazz or addiction, but this is a song about getting epically drunk, and one the Monkees based off a Mose Allison song ("Parchment Farm"), so, close enough.
  21. Nat "King" Cole and George Shearing, "Pick Yourself Up"
    This entry in the Great American Songbook accompanies either a) the most ironic moment in television history or b) an incredibly psychotic application of optimism, depending on which side of the shank you're on.
  22. "Crystal Blue Persuasion," Tommy James and the Shondells
    Tommy James' plea for understanding is a classic psychedelic soul groove in any context, but in retrospect it seems astounding that it took five seasons for the producers of Breaking Bad to get around to using it.
  23. "Quimey Neuquen," Jose Larralde (Chancha Via Circuito Remix)
    Technically a tasteful remix of an Argentine folk song, it lyrically and musically mirrors the idea of a cycle, things naturally returning to Earth, including Walt's money.
  24. "Take My True Love by the Hand," The Limeliters
    One of the late-'50s most popular traditional folk groups tells a sad tale of financial ruin, seismic change, and utter loss that may or may not echo the fate of Breaking Bad's central character.
  25. "El Paso," Marty Robbins
    Turns out this epic gunfighter ballad, which changed radio forever, also held clues to Walter White's ultimate fate.
  26. "Baby Blue," Badfinger
    The final grace note no one expected, a classic early '70s power-pop ballad by the Beatles' favorite apprentices.
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