Track of the Day: ‘Boom, Like That’ by Mark Knopfler

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This is the song I have stuck in my head after reading David Sims’s review of The Founder—a new biopic about Ray Kroc, the entrepreneur who manipulated a small California burger joint away from its two founders and into the McDonalds fast-food empire. The film, unfortunately, misses the mark in David’s estimation:

The film had the chance to subvert the typical bootstrap tale of American triumph, but instead it plays right into that easy narrative, trying to celebrate his business acumen without skirting past his darker misdeeds. The Founder ends up feeling extremely wishy-washy, unable to scrub the nastiness of Kroc’s success but also incapable of confronting it. … The Founder is the fast-food dinner of biopics—20 minutes after you eat it, you’re already hungry again.

Which is a shame, since Kroc’s story could be fascinating with different treatment. Take “Boom, Like That,” the Mark Knopfler single that reportedly served as inspiration for the movie (also the first place I heard about Kroc). From the lyrics:

We’ll make a little business history, now
Or my name’s not Kroc—call me Ray
Like “crocodile,” but not spelled that way, now
It’s dog-eat-dog, rat-eat-rat
Kroc-style. Boom, like that.

According to Knopfler, that chorus is based on quotes attributed to Kroc, and the words are unsettling—simultaneously casual and callous. If Kroc’s problem as the hero of The Founder is his blandness—played by Michael Keaton, he’s “a man whose business canny is impossible to dismiss, but who otherwise is a bit of a blank slate, perhaps befitting a champion of mediocrity”—that blandness is also what makes him fascinating: In Knopfler’s portrayal, he’s a guy who sets out to “drown” his competition and does it, shaking hands and smiling all the while.

Pair that with a slow-and-steady, recursive, persistently catchy melody and you get a song that captures Kroc’s story, and perhaps some aspects of the fast-food industry itself—deceptively simple, and yet pervasive, and ultimately haunting.

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