Wednesday, May 02, 2012

five songs that surpassed their cinema source

hi there

do you know i have a sneaky feeling that years ago i wrote something similar to this article? well, if i did not i certainly thought about it, and if i did, sorry to those with a better memory than me!

it's hard to believe that once upon a time grade A, top notch excellent songs were written and recorded specifically for movies. ever since Tarantino did his trick with the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack films have tended to lean towards just using existing songs rather than go to the trouble and expense of having a song created specifically for the movie. the James Bond films are just about the only ones left which have a specific song composed for them these days, something illustrated by (if i remember correctly) the last Oscar ceremony featured all of 2 (two) nominations for best original song. it wasn't always like that, though.

far from it, in fact. whereas a number of excellent songs have an indelible link to the film they were composed for (like for instance Ghostbusters, but then indelible only if you are not Jedward), there's equally a number of songs that have existed and been appreciated by an audience far wider than the film ever was.

before you look at what i consider to be the top five examples of songs that, for want of a better term, lived far beyond the movie they were recorded for, please note that i am not saying any of the five films are specifically bad. far from it in most cases. it's just that the songs listed have been appreciated and enjoyed by many people who never knew it ever had anything to do with a film.

so, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me try and take your breath away.....

5. Berlin - Take My Breath Away

there's a generation of us that of course immediately associate this song with Top Gun. this would be particularly because it played in the movie during the "love scene" and thus we heard it as we watched in the hope of seeing rather more of Kelly McGillis, rather less of Tom Cruise, if you know what i mean.

that, however, was over 25 years ago, and there's a whole audience out there for this great song who are unaware that it once was part of the soundtrack for the biggest advert encouraging people to join the armed forces ever made.

Berlin the band came from the same New Wave scene as the likes of Talking Heads and Blondie without ever really scoring a big crossover hit in the way those two bands had. they also were not exactly known for ballads, so the how and why of them being selected or chosen to record this song for Top Gun is something of a mystery. in fact, i would imagine those who sought out other Berlin records after hearing this will have been surprised and hopefully not disappointed.

Take My Breath Away survives to this day as a popular ballad / love song at discos, clubs, weddings and any other event where romance is sought or celebrated. it's all the more impressive that it has, if you will, escaped pure association with the film, for the US Military is not quite as popular or as celebrated now as it was back in those excellent 80s Cold War days.

speaking of America and what it is not.....

4. David Bowie - This Is Not America

this is oddly one of three Bowie songs that could walk onto this list with ease. it walks over Cat People and Absolute Beginners, however, as it doesn't share the title of the film for which it was composed, and makes only the vaguest of references to it.

The Falcon And The Snowman is one of the greatest films i have ever seen. it is a note perfect example of trying to make a film based on real events from an objective point of view. as the film deals with Cold War espionage and tends to cast America in a less than perfect light, however, it was not exactly a success. this is a shame, as Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton gave arguably career best performances in the movie.

getting David Bowie to perform the theme song must have been some sort of last ditch effort to give the film some sort of publicity, really. this was 1985, after all, and on the back of Let's Dance and the Serious Moonlight tour, David Bowie was one of the biggest pop stars in the known universe, certainly the biggest with a track record for amazing songs for movies. this is perhaps why Bowie does not appear in the video for the song. any Bowie song would be guaranteed regular play on MTV, and thus the music video is nothing more than a 4 minute trailer for the film.

this has always been a very popular Bowie song, and there was a certain thrill when David more or less rediscovered this song and played it live once again around the start of the 2000s. Bowie fans of course are aware of the source of the song, but the more casual music fan is probably familiar with the song but has no idea that it comes from the mentioned film.

the next three, i must confess, were very difficult to put in a specific "best of" order. you can swap and change the next three around, then, as much as you like. as you stand above them, look my way even.

3. Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)

you all remember how i said that i was not saying the choices here are not a criticism of the film, yeah? good, because i rate The Breakfast Club as a superb, fine piece of cinema - arguably John Hughes' finest work. it does, however, have something of a "cult" status to it. which means that everyone who has seen the film knows Simple Minds did the song, but not everyone who knows and loves the song is aware of it being made by the band more or less under contract for a film.

the story of Simple Minds and this particular song is somewhat infamous. they literally just peformed it, having nothing at all to do with the production, writing or anything. as a consequence, for many years the band simply disowned it, having it appear nowhere near any official Simple Minds release. which is rather baffling, since it's by some distance their biggest ever hit and certainly the song they have come to be remembered for. that last bit is some trick, considering the formidable number of excellent songs they have to their name.

the official answer from Simple Minds as to why they more or less disowned the track tends to revolve around phrases like "it doesn't feel like ours". that's fair enough from an artistic point of view, but made it tricky for the fans to get it. i have long argued that the band should have included it anyway on their Once Upon A Time album, something that would have turned one of the great 80s records into one of the most essential records to own.

as for the film, it retains a huge but ageing audience. i am not even sure school have detentions like the one shown in The Breakfast Club anymore, and even if they do i would suspect they are populated with kids sat glued to their "tablet" and "iTwat" devices.

2. Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You

oo-err, this could be a bit of a controversial choice. it was put forward as an original song for The Woman In Red, and indeed won the Oscar for it. however, when Stevie Wonder was accused of stealing the song from another artist - if i remember the story correctly - he produced a tape with a demo of the song dating back to the 70s. he won the case, but if he didn't actually lose the Oscar there were at least calls for him to do so, since the song obviously wasn't written for the film.

i am including it here anyway on the off chance that the above is incorrect, and even if it is true, the first the world heard of the song was in the film. oh, and it's a brilliant song too.

does anyone actually remember the film The Woman In Red? it was a reasonable enough comedy, but other than it featuring Kelly LeBrock naked, Gene Wilder being unable to say David Bowie ("David Booie") and Gilda Radner bringing fear and terror to Gene Wilder's life, it was far from memorable.

this song, however, will be forever played. in a world of classic Stevie Wonder songs this one stands head and shoulders above all others. it crossed every conceivable boundary and audience type, turning into one of the biggest, most often played songs of all types. it is also a very, very good song to play or sign down the phone when you want to speak to one that you are quite enamoured with but don't know how to start to say how you feel. try it - trust me, it works.....

the above works well when you are at a distance from a loved one, and are only together in dreams.....

1. Giorgio Moroder & Philip Oakley - Together In Electric Dreams

never mind that barely anyone knows or has even seen the film this came from; the song itself tends to get credited to the Human League rather than those who created this gem! the "League" including this on their Greatest Hits releases probably does not help that fact, but never mind.

the film Electric Dreams is one of those ones you wish was really good, but quite frankly is not. the basics of the plot are one takes a computer with the intelligence and sophistication of HAL out of 2001, but instead of the computer being psychotic you made it romantic and fall in love with its user. all this at a time when the most advanced computer of the day struggled to let you play Donkey Kong and at least a decade before internet dating or "grooming" was so much as thought of. sadly, the film is nowhere near as interesting as the premise suggests and very little happens. Virginia Madsen doesn't even take her clothes off in it, and Maxwell Caulfield was in this, a mere year after starring in Grease 2, bringing along all the class acting he displayed in that.

the rather downbeat ending to the film made it a rather hard sell as a romantic comedy, but thankfully gave the premise for the lyrics to one of the best songs in the history of pop music ever. the words speak of a distance between lovers and a longing to be together - perfect for a ballad of sorts, but made into an absolute cracker of a dance tune thanks to the ever talented Giorgio Moroder's devastating music. if you've never heard the song, or have not heard it for a while, off you go and find a copy.

why this one is number one on the list is quite straightforward. the film is that bad that it is no longer in print. even the fact that they could sell it as featuring this song has not given anyone (i believe Virgin Media are the rights holders) the courage to release it for sale. the song, however, is a regular on 80s compilations and indeed Human League celebrations. if only the film could have been at least as half as good as this song then it might have been more memorable.

well, there you have my choices. you may have different ones, and i could well have missed out one or two obvious songs. all i can hope is that this has reminded you of some truly excellent songs and indeed the films from whence they came!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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