Everyone’s gone to the movies

There’s always been a special symbiotic relationship between music and film. From the earliest examples — Al Jolson singing “My Mammy” in 1927’s “The Jazz Singer,” the first film with synchronized sound for both speech and singing sequences — through the decades of film musicals based on Broadway stage plays, popular songs have played a pivotal role in making films more successful, just as the use of songs in films has often spiked the chart success of the records.

By the 1960s and the influx of rock and roll in some Hollywood movies, the relationship between film and music really took off, so that by the ’70s and ’80s, many film soundtrack albums were virtually saturated with rock songs. Some films in the mid-’80s featured as many as three or four songs that became huge hit singles (“Footloose” and “Purple Rain” come immediately to mind).

For this week’s post, Hack’s Back Pages Lyrics Quiz #6, I have selected 24 snippets of rock lyrics from original songs written specifically for films of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. If you haven’t seen the film in question, certain lyrics may prove difficult to identify, but then again, these lyrics are from records that had a life of their own, independent of the film for which they were written.

Here’s what I suggest: Grab a pen and paper, and jot down your guesses (educated or wild-ass) as you peruse the list of two dozen lyrics. Once you’ve done all you can, then you can scroll down a bit until you find the answers and read a little more about them. I’d love to hear how well you did! I hope it’s as much fun taking this quiz as it was for me to assemble it!

Rock on!

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1. “And it don’t take money, don’t take fame, /Don’t need no credit card to ride this train, /It’s strong and it’s sudden, it can be cruel sometimes, /But it might just save your life…”

2. “Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel, /A fortune won and lost on every deal, /All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel…”

3. “We take the pressure and we throw away, conventionality belongs to yesterday, /There is a chance that we can make it so far, we start believing now that we can be who we are…”

4. “I’m gonna live forever, I’m gonna learn how to fly high, /I feel it coming together, people will see me and cry…”

5. “Headin’ into twilight, spreadin’ out her wings tonight, /She got you jumpin’ off the deck and shovin’ into overdrive…”

6. “Let me tell you ’bout some friends I know, they’re kinda crazy but you’ll dig the show, /They can party ’till the break of dawn, at Delta Chi, you can’t go wrong…”

7. “A friend who taught me right from wrong, and weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn, /What! What can I give you in return?…”

8. “I know I’m gonna know her, but I gotta get over my fright, /Well, I’m just gonna walk up to her, I’m gonna talk to her tonight, /Yeah, she’s gonna be somebody’s only light, gonna shine tonight…”

9. “Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk, /Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around since I was born…”

10. “So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone, you know I feel okay, /When I’m home, everything seems to be right, When I’m home feeling you holding me tight…”

11. “The way that you hold me whenever you hold me, /There’s some kind of magic inside you that keeps me from running, but just keep it coming, /How’d you learn to do the things you do?…”

12. “Will you recognise me, call my name or walk on by, /Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down, down, down, down…”

13. “My baby may not be rich, he’s watchin’ every dime, /But he loves me, loves me, loves me, we always have a real good time, /And maybe he sings off-key, but that’s alright by me, /’Cause what he does, he does so well…”

14. “What did it matter to you, when you got a job to do you got to do it well, /You got to give the other fellow hell…”

15. “Once in your life you’ll find her, someone who turns your heart around, /And next thing you know, you’re closin’ down the town…”

16. “Jesus loves you more than you will know, woh woh woh…”

17. “Time, I’ve been passing time watching trains go by all of my life, /Lying on the sand watching sea birds fly, wishing there would be someone waiting home for me…”

18. “It’s just a jump to the left, and then a jump to the right, with your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight, but it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane…”

19. “All alone, I have cried silent tears full of pride in a world made of steel, made of stone, /Well, I hear the music, close my eyes, feel the rhythm wrap around, take a hold of my heart…”

20. “And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on, /Don’t think of the danger, or the stranger is gone, /This dream is for you, so pay the price…”

21. “An invisible man, sleepin’ in your bed, /Ow, who you gonna call?…”

22. “You’re gonna make your fortune by and by, but if you lose, don’t ask no questions why, /The only game you know is do or die, ah-ha-ha…”

23. “Maybe I’m just too demanding, maybe I’m just like my father, too bold, /Maybe you’re just like my mother, she’s never satisfied, /Why do we scream at each other?…”

24. “The shadows are on the darker side, behind the doors, it’s a wilder ride, /You can make a break, you can win or lose, that’s a chance you take…”

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1. “The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis and The News, from “Back to the Future” (1985)

Lewis and his band were riding high on the multi-platinum success of their 1983 LP “Sports” and its four Top Ten hits when they were asked to write a theme song for Robert Zemeckis’s film “Back to the Future.” Lewis and band members Johnny Colla and Chris Hayes collaborated on “The Power of Love,” which Billboard called “an out-of-the-box monster hit” that topped the charts and got a Best Song Oscar nomination.

2. “Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis Presley, from “Viva Las Vegas” (1964)

Presley managed to reach #29 on US Top 40 charts with this rollicking theme song from what critics have called one of his finest films out of more than two dozen he made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Thanks to the chemistry between Elvis and his sexy co-star Ann-Margret, “Viva Las Vegas” reached #14 on Variety’s list of top-grossing films in 1964.

3. “Grease,” Frank Valli, from “Grease” (1978)

Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees was commissioned to write a new title song for the 1978 film version of the 1972 Broadway stage play. Film director Randal Kleiser didn’t like it much because it used disco instrumentation and a Seventies beat, which he felt didn’t fit with the late ’50s plot setting. Nevertheless, Frankie Valli recorded it and took it to #1, one of three hits from the film soundtrack to top the charts (“You’re the One That I Want” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” being the others).

4. “Fame,” Irene Cara, from “Fame” (1980)

Cara had begun acting in her teens on stage and on television, and she was only 20 when she was not only selected to portray Coco Hernandez in “Fame” but was given her recording debut singing the film’s theme song as well. She became a proverbial “overnight sensation” with the record, reaching #4 on the pop charts and winning an Oscar for Best Song.

5. “Danger Zone,” Kenny Loggins, from “Top Gun” (1986)

As half of the duo Loggins and Messina and then as a solo artist, Loggins wrote and recorded several pop hits including “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “House at Pooh Corner,” “Whenever I Call You Friend” and “This Is It.” He then began working in film music, scoring successes with “I’m Alright” for the “Caddyshack” comedy, the title song of “Footloose” and the #2 pop hit “Danger Zone” for the 1986 Tom Cruise action film “Top Gun.”

6. “Animal House,” Stephen Bishop, from “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978)

The soundtrack of this landmark bawdy comedy was chock full of classic rock and roll and R&B tunes (Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “Wonderful World,” Paul & Paula’s “Hey Paula,” Chris Montez’s “Let’s Dance,” Otis Day & The Knights’ version of “Shout”). As the closing credits rolled, singer-songwriter Bishop sang the lyrics to the theme song he wrote in mock falsetto, calling out various characters and their nefarious adventures.

7. “To Sir, With Love,” Lulu, from “To Sir With Love” (1967)

The songwriting team of Mark London and Don Black wrote this melodramatic tune as the theme song for the Sidney Poitier vehicle “To Sir, With Love,” about a black teacher assigned to a British working class high school, and his attempts to win them over. British sensation Lulu took her rendition to the top of the US charts and in Canada (#11 in the UK) in 1967.

8. “Somebody’s Baby,” Jackson Browne, from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1983)

Browne had been a critical favorite from his debut in 1972, and his albums became increasingly successful over the next ten years. When asked to write a song for the 1982 teen flick “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” he came up with this catchy track, which reached #7 in the US, his highest-charting single of his career. The film is noted for early appearances by multiple award-winning actors, including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whittaker and Nicolas Cage.

9. “Stayin’ Alive,” The Bee Gees, from “Saturday Night Fever” (1977)

The most successful film soundtrack of all time made The Bee Gees the quintessential disco act (which they would ultimately regret), giving them three #1 singles in the US in less than a year. Barry Gibb recalled, “Desperate songs — those are the ones that become giants. ‘Stayin’ Alive’ is the epitome of that. Everybody struggles against the world, fighting all the things that can drag you down. And it really is a victory just to survive.”

 

10. “A Hard Day’s Night,” The Beatles, from “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964)

The unmistakable opening chord of this fab track also opened the movie, and as The Beatles (in glorious black and white) cheerfully ran through a London train station just out of reach of fans chasing them, this indelible tune played in the background. Producers decided to use Ringo’s malaprop “it’s been a hard day’s night” as the film’s title, John wrote the title song overnight, and the band recorded it the next day. It became the group’s fifth of seven #1 singles on the US charts in 1964, also topping charts in the UK, Canada, Australia and five other countries.

11. “Nobody Does It Better,” Carly Simon, from “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

Composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager were commissioned to come up with the theme song for the tenth James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Critics referred to their song as “a lust-drunk anthem to 007’s sexual prowess.” Hamlisch said that because the lyrics sounded so vain, they thought of asking Carly Simon to sing it because of her previous hit “You’re So Vain.” “Nobody Does It Better” peaked at #2 on the charts and was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy.

12. “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Simple Minds, from “The Breakfast Club” (1985)

When first approached to record this song for “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack, Simple Minds declined, saying “We only record our own songs.” Producers then asked Bryan Ferry, Billy Idol and Corey Hart to sing it but they declined as well. Simple Minds was finally persuaded, and rearranged and recorded it in three hours and promptly forgot about it, believing it would be a throwaway song on the soundtrack to a forgettable movie. The song and the film ended up worldwide successes, with Simple Minds finally getting the recognition in the US they’d been seeking.

13. “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” Deniece Williams, from “Footloose” (1984)

Williams sang background vocals on Stevie Wonder’s biggest albums while in her early ’20s, had a huge hit with Johnny Mathis in 1978, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” and a #10 single, “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” in 1982. By 1984, she was asked to sing “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” written by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford for the “Footloose” soundtrack, and again she found herself at the top of the pop charts.

14. “Live and Let Die,” Paul McCartney and Wings, from “Live and Let Die” (1973)

Producers of the first James Bond film to star Roger Moore as 007 wanted a commercial rock song as the movie’s theme song. They approached McCartney, who accepted the challenge but found it difficult. “It was work for me, because writing a song around a title like that wasn’t easy,” he recalled. It reached #2 on the pop charts, earned an Oscar nomination, and has been a fixture on McCartney’s concert set list ever since.

15. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” Christopher Cross, from “Arthur” (1981)

Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli had marvelous chemistry in this romantic comedy that was a big box-office success in 1981. The title song — a collaborative writing project between Cross, film scorer Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen — was recorded by Cross, reached #1 on pop charts and won the Best Song Oscar.

16. “Mrs. Robinson,” Simon and Garfunkel, from “The Graduate” (1967)

Director Mike Nichols turned down three of the four songs Simon wrote for “The Graduate,” instead choosing to use older Simon tunes like “The Sound of Silence” and “Scarborough Fair.” He obviously liked “Mrs. Robinson” and included it in the film, but only in partial segments because Simon hadn’t finished it. In the movie, you hear only the chorus, as the verses were written after the film’s release. The movie was a success, but the finished Simon and Garfunkel song, which appeared on their “Bookends” LP, was an iconic #1 hit single in the summer of 1968.

17. “It Might Be You,” Stephen Bishop, from “Tootsie” (1982)

Bishop was a soft rock singer/songwriter in the mid-late 1970s with original hits like “On and On,” but in 1982, he was asked to sing the theme song (written by David Grusin and Marilyn Bergman) for the Dustin Hoffman film “Tootsie.” It reached #25 on the pop charts that summer, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

18. “Time Warp,” Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn, from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1974)

This campy musical horror-comedy, originally a stage play in 1973, became a feature film two years later, using much of the same music. It later became a sensation on the midnight movie circuit at art-film houses around the US and Europe, a phenomenon that continued into the 2000s. “Time Warp” is the film’s signature dance number, with lyrics that offer instructions on how to do the dance in question.

19. “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” Irene Cara, from “Flashdance” (1984)

Following her success with the “Fame” theme music, Cara was asked to sing the title track to “Flashdance” four years later, and she took this one to the top of the charts.

20. “You Only Live Twice,” Nancy Sinatra, from “You Only Live Twice” (1967)

John Barry, who wrote the iconic James Bond theme music and the title songs for the first four Bond films, also wrote this stunner for the fifth in the series, “You Only Live Twice.” Producer Albert Broccoli wanted Frank Sinatra to sing it, but he suggested his daughter Nancy instead, who was basking in the glow of the huge hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Barry wanted to use Aretha Franklin, but they went with Nancy Sinatra, whose version stalled at #44 on pop charts but reached #3 on the Adult Contemporary Chart.

21. “Ghostbusters,” Ray Parker Jr., from “Ghostbusters” (1984)

Parker was given a short deadline to write the film’s theme song, and was inspired by late night commercial jingles urging viewers to “call right away.” He allegedly didn’t look too far to come up with the theme song to the #1 box-office comedy of 1984. He was clearly inspired by Huey Lewis and The News’s big hit “I Want a New Drug,” and Lewis received a settlement in a 1985 lawsuit. Parker’s song, with lyrics that claimed “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” actually performed better than the Lewis tune, sitting at #1 on US charts for three weeks in the summer of 1984.

22. “Superfly,” Curtis Mayfield, from “Super Fly” (1972)

Producers of “blaxploitation” films like “Super Fly” drew criticism for their glorification of black male characters as pimps, dealers and gangsters, but this movie was praised for an all-black technical film crew and a plot in which the lead character was looking to get out of the drug culture. It turned a profit, but even more successful was the soul/funk music soundtrack, composed entirely by Curtis Mayfield, which exceeded expectations by reaching #1 on US pop charts in the fall of 1972, with two Top Ten singles including “Freddie’s Dead” (#4) and the title song (#8).

23. “When Doves Cry,” Prince and The Revolution, from “Purple Rain” (1984)

It took Prince a lot of persuading to get “Purple Rain” made. No one, it seemed, wanted to make a movie about the hard life of a musician from Minnesota who would rise to the peak of his profession, but sure enough, he got it done, and it exceeded every expectation (except perhaps his own). The soundtrack album sat at #1 for 24 weeks and stayed in the Top 200 for more than two years. “When Doves Cry” was the most successful of four Top Ten singles from the album.

24. “The Heat Is On,” Glenn Frey, from “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984)

Harold Faltermeyer, a German musician/composer who had already contributed the instrumental piece “Axel F” to the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, wrote “The Heat Is On” with lyricist Keith Forsey, and they asked ex-Eagle Glenn Frey to record the vocals. Frey readily agreed, also adding the guitar solo, and the song ended up reaching #2 on US charts in early 1985, the highest charting solo single by any member of The Eagles.

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2 comments

  1. Budd · May 14

    Great fun.

    Like

  2. Phil Pierce · May 14

    Dear Hack,

    WOW, very interesting blog topic — the mix of pop/rock hit songs and movies. I love the list you assembled, which could go on forever, especially since most major movies include at least one memorable theme song, many of which have been hits in their own right. Even pre-pop/rock, motion pictures were the spawn of numerous hit songs, e.g. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Wizard of OZ, 1939), “As Time Goes By” (Casablanca, 1942), “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Pinocchio, 1940), “Singing in the Rain” (1952). So, it’s not too surprising that so many rock/pop hits (mid-1950s+) were often generated from popular movies.

    A few eclectic honorable mentions to add, though perhaps not as broadly popular as most of the entries above: “Friends” (1970 — since we’re both huge Elton John fans and I know this song has a place in your heart), “Unchained Melody” (Ghost, 1990) — which also made pottery sculpting VERY popular in couples therapy, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (Life of Brian, 1979 — well, because it’s PYTHON, come on), and “Dueling Banjos” (Deliverance, 1972 — because no one of our generation ever took another river canoe trip AGAIN!).

    Been reading most of your blogs, though not able to comment regularly! I share many with my four grown sons, to remind them of when and where truly great music started (not this crap being produced today!)

    Great stuff, Hack, please keep it up.

    Duryea

    Like

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