Wednesday night, surf-guitar hero Dick Dale played to a packed Continental Club, in what Rocks Off's buddy Lonesome Onry and Mean and several others have since said was one of the best shows they've ever seen. The song that sent everyone home with their ears ringing and their fingers on fire was, of course, "Misirlou."
"Misirlou" is a pretty old song, believed to have been composed around 1927, but it may be older than that. Although Dale's version has a distinct Spanish flair, its origins are in the Greek urban folk style of rebetiko. Most people in America, of course, know it as the song that plays over the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction.
This got Rocks Off thinking about other songs that are famous because of their cinematic connotations. We put out a call on Facebook to see what our friends would come back with, and were impressed with the results (41 comments). Some of those, and some we came up with in our own research, follow. We tried to limit the list to songs that were not specifically written for the screen, a la "Over the Rainbow" or "Lose Yourself," but we make the rules around here, so we feel free to break them too.
Survivor, "Eye of the Tiger"
Film: Rocky III (1982)
This is what we were talking about. Because he couldn't get the rights to Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Sylvester Stallone asked Survivor to write a song for the third Rocky flick (the one Mr. T nearly steals), and the Chicago rockers obliged with a tune with such a catchy riff "Eye of the Tiger" might well have been a hit on its own. As it was, it was the most popular song of 1982, the single sold two million copies, and Survivor picked up a Grammy and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
The Shins, "New Slang"
Film: Garden State (2006)
Have the Shins ever actually changed anyone's life? For the better? No matter - Natalie Portman's endorsement of this song from the jangly New Mexico/Portland indie-rockers' 2003 album Oh, Inverted World was not only the most memorable thing about Garden State, it helped the band's next album, 2007's Wincing the Night Away, debut in the Billboard Top 10. And then... hey, what the hell ever happened to the Shins, anyway?
Stealer's Wheel, "Stuck In the Middle With You"
Film: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Slice somebody's ear off, slowly and grotesquely, put a forgotten AM hit from the '70s back in heavy rotation.
The Proclaimers, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
Film: Benny & Joon (1993)
Perpetually grinning Scottish brothers Craig and Charlie Reed's catchy (if stalkerish) song first appeared on 1988's Sunshine on Leith, but didn't take off in America until it was featured in the offbeat Johnny Depp romantic comedy Benny & Joon. Then it really took off; Rocks Off estimates we heard the song two or three times on the way to and from our high-school graduation in May 1993. Since then, the Proclaimers (who are still around) went country, sort of, but no one cared.
"As Time Goes By"
Film: Casablanca (1941)
This sentimental ballad, written by Herman Hupfer, first appeared in the 1931 Broadway musical Everybody's Welcome. It was recorded by Rudy Vallee that same year, but the version fixed in everyone's mind is the one Dooley Wilson sings in Casablanca in response to words Humphrey Bogart never said. Instead of "Play it again, Sam," Bogey's heartbroken Rick says, "You know what I want to hear... you played it for her, you can play it for me." Really, the song says it all.
Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
Film: The Breakfast Club (1985)
One of Rocks Off's Facebook friends simply responded to our query, "Any song from a John Hughes film." Here's why. This one was actually written for The Breakfast Club - co-writer Keith Forsey composed the score - and supposedly Simple Minds recorded it in about three hours and promptly forgot about it. Then it became the band's first and only U.S. No. 1 hit, one of the definitive songs of the 1980s and one of our favorites Of All Time. So it's here.
Bob Seger, "Old Time Rock & Roll"
Film: Risky Business (1983)
This is far, far from Rocks Off's favorite Bob Seger song. More or less, in fact, we can't stand it; we'd rather hear some blues or funky old soul, and definitely the Bob Seger System's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." Nevertheless, "Old Time" did well enough when released as a single from Seger's 1979 album Stranger In Town - which contains the infinitely superior "Feel Like a Number" - reaching No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Then Tom Cruise sang it in his underwear, and by 1996 it had risen to the No. 2 Jukebox Single of All Time, according to the Amusement & Music Operators Association. We miss jukeboxes.
Soggy Bottom Boys, "Man of Constant Sorrow"
Film: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Interesting case study here. This song has been recorded dozens of times, including by Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart and the Stanley Brothers, and some people believe it may be 200 to 300 years old. This version from the Coen brothers' retelling of Homer's Odyssey, with Dan Tyminski of Allison Krauss & Union Station on lead vocals, won the CMA's Single of the Year, a Grammy for Country Collaboration with Vocals, and even cracked country radio's Top 40. When Rocks Off interviewed soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett for the Austin Chronicle once, he told us he wanted "Man of Constant Sorrow" to sound like a Traffic song. It kind of does.
Eric Weisbard & Johnny Mandel, "Dueling Banjos"
Film: Deliverance (1972)
On a real, real short list for the unlikeliest Top 40 hit of all time, this frenetic hillbillies-gone-wild guitar/banjo duet spent a month at No. 2 in 1973 after no one who saw Deliverance could get it out of their head. It was written by noted session musician Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith in 1955 (as "Feuding Banjos"), and won him a pile of money when Warner Bros. originally included it in the film and on the soundtrack without his permission.
Psychedelic Furs, "Pretty In Pink"
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Film: Pretty In Pink (1986)
See Simple Minds, only this time Hughes took a song from the Furs 1981 LP Talk Talk Talk, gave its title to his 1986 rich-guy/poor-girl rom-com, and gave the British art-rockers a reason to keep touring 25 years later. See also: OMD, "If You Leave," also from Pretty In Pink.