Nothing is as it seems in FX's new show Legion. Much of the show deals with what is going on in David Haller's head, and, as such, the world around him becomes unclear. For instance, while it's not certain when the series is set, the clothing and architecture indicate a 1960s or 1970s aesthetic. The show doubles down on its time-bending presentation through Legion's classic rock-inspired soundtrack. The surreal world that the show builds is enhanced with the inclusion of music from some of rock's most psychedelic tracks by the biggest bands.
Legion showrunner Noah Hawley, who is also the showrunner behind FX's Fargo, told Entertainment Weekly that "this whole show is not the world, it’s David’s experience of the world. He’s piecing his world together from nostalgia and memory and the world becomes that." A lot of David's memory is likely rooted in 1960/'70s England, as some of the show's boldest design and soundtrack choices spring from that era. Much like Season 2 of Hawley's Fargo featured a soundtrack full of 1970's midwestern deep cuts, special attention has been paid to ensuring that the sounds of Legion match the sights. Here's a look at what music inspired one of the weirdest new shows on television.
The Rolling Stones
One of the show's most recognizable soundtrack choices comes in the form of The Rolling Stone's hit "She's A Rainbow." Getting the license to use one of the most famous songs ever recorded by one of the most famous bands in the world likely cost a pretty penny — but it's also a telling sign of what world Hawley is trying to establish. "She's A Rainbow" is used to introduce the audience to Syd, who David forms a bond with and becomes the one good thing about David's constant nightmare.
The series opens with a montage of David's life set over one of The Who's earliest hits "Happy Jack." The use of The Who in the show's soundtrack could be a direct reference to the influence they had on the design of Legion. Their concept album Quadrophenia, tells the story of a disillusioned young man dissatisfied with his own reality meandering through life. The album then inspired a film that would then go on to be an inspiration for Legion. Hawley described the world of Legion to Screener.tv as "this sort of hybrid A Clockwork Orange/Quadrophenia world." A lot of The Who courses throughout Legion, and it wouldn't be surprising to see references to the band continue to pop up throughout the series.
There's no greater musical influence on Legion than that of rock legends Pink Floyd. The band, which during its long career constantly bucked expectations and went left when everyone else was going right, casts such a large shadow over Legion that even one of the show's main characters is named after a member of the band. Vanity Fair reports that when Hawley met with composer Jeff Russo, Hawley "remembers saying that he wanted the show to sound like Dark Side of the Moon." Hawley elaborated "That album more than anything is really the soundscape of mental illness to some degree."
A further connection between Legion, Pink Floyd, and mental illness is the character Syd Barrett, played in the show by Rachel Keller. Syd Barrett is also the name of Pink Floyd's founding lead singer, who left after their second album. Barrett's departure from the band influenced much of their later music, including the iconic track "Wish You Were Here."
Legion's musical choices manage to build the twisted world of David Haller, but also pay tribute to the artists that helped inform the unique voice of the series. While the songs featured in Legion are all great tracks, a showrunner as complex and clever as Hawley surely has something up his sleeve by included these specific tracks. Is Haller going on a Quadrophenia-style search for meaning in his own mind? As Legion begins to introduce more and more questions about the world of David Haller, it may just be answering those same questions through its music.