The history of the iconic theme song for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has its beginnings in the old Spaghetti styled Western movies. The movie is just as iconic, and starred Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef, all who would go on to make a number of classic Western genre movies in the 60’s and 70’s. Ennio Morricone was a composer for some of those original Spaghetti Westerns, and was called upon to put together the music for the movie.
If the name Morricone sounds familiar, it is because he is the composer of the music in the background of that epic scene in Kill Bill, Vol. 1, during the bloodletting fight scene at the House of Blue Leaves. His music is also scattered around in Volume 2 of the movie, some from the soundtrack of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. But this would not be Quentin Tarantino’s only use of Morricone’s talent. He would also include music for one of his more recent movies on ShowTime, The Hateful Eight.
There have been a number of theme songs and singles that have come from movie soundtracks. This particular song had reached number 4 on the Billboard charts, and despite falling after reaching that height, remained on the Billboard 200 for another year. The song is played at the end of the movie in one of the Western genre’s most memorable and signature movie scenes.
The actual scene in the movie takes place in the desert with a showdown between the three actors, all vying for a hidden treasure that is buried in a marked grave. The music when heard today still concocts mental images of the barren desert, an old fashioned Western showdown, and the cowboys of yesteryear. But the song has continued to have significant cultural influence as demonstrated by the fact a number of musical groups have latched on to a part of the theme song. Groups include Gorillaz, R.E.M., The Pogues, The Ramones, The Vandals, Cameo, and Sin City Sinners. It was even included in the video game Maestro! Jump in Music.
To be accurate, The Ecstasy of Gold is the actual name of the part that has become famous, as Morricone would compose the entire soundtrack for the movie. But most fans of the musical piece tend to associate it with the movie rather than the single scene where Wallach’s character, Tuco, is digging for the hidden treasure.
A metal version of the song has been made, and viewers of the YouTube video say they have flashbacks of being at a Metallica concert. The poster/player admits he is aware that Metallica indeed did a version of this as a cover song, but did it as a tribute to the great Morricone. To really appreciate this version of the song you have to be a serious metal fan. Many were asking what took so long to create this version, and that Morricone would be proud to hear such a composition. Though 89 years old, Morricone lives in Rome, Italy and we cannot be certain he hasn’t given this version a listen. But to be objective, this isn’t how your dad or granddad will remember the song.