"Doesn't anybody fucking knock?!"*

Last week, the Onion A.V. Club, my go-to source for pop-culture insight and commentary, did one of their Inventory features: 15 Pop Songs Owned by Movie Scenes. As the name suggests, it’s a handful of pop songs not originally written for a movie with which the song has become inextricably linked in the collective consciousness. Follow the link to see theirs—along with some fun suggestions in the comments section. But first, check out mine and share yours below.

“Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Young Frankenstein bends the rules a bit since, while it is a pop song in the best sense of the word, it’s actually being performed by characters in the movie, not being played over the scene. Still, if the definition of “owning” the song is “scene that comes to mind when you hear the song,” then this is the reference standard, at least for me. Frankly, (or is it pronounced ‘fronkly?’) anyone who can hear "Puttin' on the Ritz" and not think of YF is clearly not of this earth. "Oooh-pah doo-pah!"




This one actually came to me out of the ether—before I had seen the OAVC feature: Nina Simone's "Sinnerman" from the latter-day Thomas Crown Affair. Probably a knock on the limits of my musical experience, but whatever. A great song that really elevates an okay movie.

Speaking of Pierce Brosnan...time will tell if it can claim permanent ownership, but the way The Matador uses “It’s Not Unusual” proves the old saying about possession being nine-tenths of the law.

The Isley Bros.’ "It's Your Thing" is currently in the possession of Out of Sight, especially the blue-filtered Detroit cruising montage. Even though it, along with the redoubtable Robert Forster, wasn’t enough to save the doomed “Karen Sisco” TV spin-off that used it as a theme song.

Risky Business is of course the sole and irrevocable holder of Bob Seger’s “Old-Time Rock and Roll.” But for me, personally (and maybe this betrays how musically sheltered I was at the time I saw it) the pure, libidinous, harmonica-and-guitar grind of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” will always bring to mind Joel’s “I concentrated on sales” montage. “You know what he said, afterwards? He said the lady had knowledge. And he was glad to get that knowledge. Because college girls can smell ignorance—like dog shit.”

I know I’m stuck in the ‘80s here, but I have to give credit to Reckless for introducing me to Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never.” For those scoring along at home in their lucky souvenir programs, this is also the movie that I came out of, smitten with the leggy blonde lead and, after trying to crib her identity from the one sheet, declared, “That Aidan Quinn is hot!” ‘Cause, seriously, who the hell names a girl Daryl? For that matter, who names a boy Aidan? Remember, these were the early ‘80s and I was still quite the naïf.

Finally, just for fun and under the heading of classical adaptations/appropriations version, I must include "Ode to Joy" (Beethoven's 9th) from Raising Arizona. Among classical tunes yodeled, whistled and rendered on banjo, it has no equal. “Or my name ain't Nathan Arizona!”



*This is of course the denouement line from the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High that proves the concept of song "ownership." At least if you're a heterosexual man. It's not the Cars’ “Moving in Stereo.” Oh, no. That song belongs 100% to sweet Phoebe.

9 comments:

Make the logo bigger said...

Lemmee clear my throat y’all and get on base with an homage to your moniker’s subhead:

‘S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!’ - Bay City Rollers.

- ‘Misirlou’ - Dick Dale - Pulp Fiction intro

- ‘It’s Not Unusual’ I actually had pegged for Mars Attacks!

‘(What A) Wonderful World’ - Sam Cooke – Animal House AND Witness, even though it doesn’t appear on the latter’s original soundtrack.

And another in that category would be:

- ‘Hip To Be Square’ - Huey Lewis - American Pyscho

There’s also another sub-category at work though. Songs written for a movie even though not part of the actual score but became huge:

- ‘Ghostbusters‘ – Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters

- ‘Axel F’ (Axel’s Theme) - Harold Faltermeyer - Beverly Hills Cop


This one has is a hybrid of the above categories, literally and figuratively:

- ‘Dueling Banjos‘ – Deliverance. (Hardly pop but damn popular. ;-p)

Mr. Middlebrow said...

MTLB:
Well played, suh! [cricket clap]

'specially the nod to SIMAAM.

Yeah, Tarantino deserves credit for practically inventing the category, or at least reviving it. Certainly he was the main inspiration for the AV Club list in the first place. His films are really textbooks on how to milk cinematic drama and irony out of semi-obscure AM radio hits.

Thanks for popping by.

Ed said...

The Goldberg Variations playing over the cassette machine in the cage, slightly echoing in the large hall. Hannibal Lecter with a light spray of blood upon his face, eyes closed, calmly plays faux conductor as the blood pools around the head of Sergeant Pembry.

Mr. Middlebrow said...

Ed:
Good one. But man, does that movie give me the creeps [shiver].

Someone on the AV Club comments suggested Tom Petty's "American Girl" from TSotL; personally, I still associate it with Fast Times.

Long as we're going down the Thomas Harris/Hannibal Lecter road, how about "Inagadadavida" from Manhunter?

tammara said...

"Oh Yeah" by Yellow - The Secret of My Success. And yeah, "Never Say Never" is definitely Reckless, and I remember the scene. Ah, jeez, weren't Daryl and Aidan so cute then? (Weren't we all so cute then?!?)

Mr. Middlebrow said...

tammara!

I'm so glad someone else remembers Reckless (and will cop to having watched it). I was beginning to think I was the only one who had ever seen it. Twice, actually. Is this movie a total smorgasbord of secret shame, or what? Alas, entertainment and recreation options around Ft. Dix, NJ, ca. 1984, left a bit to be desired.

I vaguely recall "Oh Yeah" from TSomS, but for me it's properly owned by the closing credits of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Ordinarily, songs played over the credits don't qualify, but the story kept going in little windows--with dialog, even: "Want a gummi bear? They've been in my pocket and they're all warm and squishy."

fish said...

"Shout" is completely owned by Animal House. The song is permanently linked to images of Togas for me.

Similarly, "I'm Alright" cannot be heard without seeing a dancing gopher.

goldie said...

Re Miserlou: Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the original cut of "The Warriors" (1979) began with Miserlou playing as the Warriors gathered on the beaches of Coney Island. This scene would have taken place immediately before the opening credits.

It's impossible to think of Nancy Sinatra without thinking of the Vietnamese prostitute sashaying towards Mathew Modine (just after PVT Pyle's suicide) in "Full Metal Jacket."

As for Romeo Void, "A Girl In Trouble (is a temporary thing)" is the most overplayed track on my personal mix-cd. It makes me feel all sophisticated and new wavey and stuff.

Mr. Middlebrow said...

Fish:
'fraid I have to disqualify "I'm Alright"--great as it is--for being written expressing for the movie. Like pretty much every decent thing Kenny Loggins did post-L&M.

"Shout" and Animal House, however, gets you a double word score for sheer indisputibility.

Goldie:
Great call on the FMJ/"These Boots" ownership. Kubrick was the pre-Tarantino master of matching music, classical and popular, with scene. Few people if asked could hum a few bars of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." But everybody knows the theme from 2001.