Abstrakt: Five Songs That Defined a Movie (And Vice Versa)

By ajcolores

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Music and film are two mediums that pretty much everyone but the weirdest, loneliest freaks in the world love. There are some tracks so indelibly linked to a movie that now we can't hear the song without subconsciously playing the movie in our heads. There are some movie's that with the merest mention of the title will trigger a chorus of music (I still can't hear Steelers Wheel's - Stuck in the Middle With You without my ears twinging).

1. Everybody's Talkin'- Nillson [Midnight Cowboy]

The earliest entry to the list, Midnight Cowboy and Everybody's Talkin' are now synonymous with each other. It's pretty much impossible to hear those opening chords and not picture John Voight standing on that street corner in his cowboy attire, or Dustin Hoffman coughing his lungs onto the dirty streets of New York. The song is so typically American with it's quasi-country feel, as Harry Nillson waxes on about moving on to better things, fitting the films themes of the American dream, loneliness and the hope of a better life like a glove. It's usually a rule in films that the lyrics of a song shouldn't directly deal with whats on screen, but in this case, we couldn't imagine it working any better. It's also a rule that if a film scene has been successfully parodied more than once, it can be considered a classic. Well, the Nillson estate must be drowning in royalties from the sheer number of parodies that still insist on using those opening chords. There's too many to name in that list, so just enjoy the original:

WATCH | Nillson - Everybody's Talkin'

2. Johnny B. Goode-Chuck Berry [Back to the Future]

Sure it's cheesy as hell, and sure it's pretty reckless behaviour on the part of Marty McFly, but damn it all if it isn't such a satisfying scene to sum up a great movie. In case you haven't seen Back to The Future (what the hell did you do with your childhood?), it's about a kid that manages to go back in time, and does the one thing his professor friend asked him not to do (i.e.fuck with the past). He also gets a bit intimate with his mom, but, hell, it was the fifties. The film culminates in him desperately trying to unite his parents so that he can exist in the present, which requires him to fill in on guitar. Not content to merely play songs that people can actually dance to romantically to, he insists on giving them a taste of things to come with a rendition of Chuck Berry's 1958 hit Johnny B. Goode. Marty McFly pulls it off flawlessly of course, but leaves the crowd stunned into terrified silence.


He leaves with an ominous warning about how their kids will love it, without mentioning any of the impending disasters or socio-economic problems they'll likely face. It captures the film's mood perfectly, and distracts you from the awkward conversation his parents will likely have a few years later regarding how much their new son resembles a man their mother dated in the fifties.

WATCH | Chuck Berry - Johnny B.Goode (Marty McFly Cover)

3. Don't You (Forget About Me)-Simple Minds [The Breakfast Club]

This film couldn't be any more eighties if it tried, which is OK, because it was released smack in the middle of 1985. It has every eighties cliche you could think of, including your leather jacketed rebel, your big hair and wacky clothed princess, the brooding goth, wimpy nerd and stupid jock. The Breakfast Club to which the title refers is a congregation of misfits united by a Saturday morning detention and their hatred of Mr Vernon, their principal. They do all the usual things eighties kids do, bitch, whine, smoke marijuana but act like they've done cocaine instead, sexually abuse each other etc. You know, standard things for kids in the eighties. The film opens and closes with possibly the most eighties track ever produced, Simple Minds' - Don't You (Forget About Me). It has the synths, the electric drums rattling away, and John Kerr's swaggering vocals urging you not to forget about him. It's by no means a great song, but it is so synonymous with the eighties in large part thanks to this film, which catapulted it to number 1 in the US. The song may have been just as beneficial to the film as vice versa, but that doesn't stop Judd Nelson looking like an utter dick with his fist raised to the sky as the credits begin to roll. Oh well, you can't expect miracles from eighties synth-pop.

WATCH | Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)

4. Where is My Mind - The Pixies [Fight Club]

Do you remember when Fight Club was released? It was massive, cementing Brad Pitt and Edward Norton as A-List actors and simultaneously making schizophrenia the 'in' thing. Fifteen years later the film is considered a cult classic. Much like The Pixies it has never had to thrust itself back into the public eye, but is content to remain a consistent left-field favourite. David Fincher's movie even committed the cardinal sin of film making and still got away with it.

As we've mentioned earlier, you should NEVER feature a song that describes exactly what's going on in the scene. It just feels like overkill, telling the audience what's going on through two different senses at once. It usually makes the film appear to be condescending to the audience, like they might not understand what's happening visually unless you put in a nice little song to sum it up too. One of the few films that manages to punch this theory repeatedly in the face is Fight Club, with The Pixies' apocalyptic masterpiece Where Is My Mind blaring as the world explodes and crashes down around Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter's characters. For a film about confused self-identities, the inclusion of Where Is My Mind seems so wrong but makes so much sense it hurts our brains.

WATCH | The Pixies - Where Is My Mind? (Fight Club Closing Scene)

5. The Doors-The End [Apocalypse Now]

One of the greatest films ever, featuring one of the most famous tracks to emerge from the 1960's, Apocalypse Now was never going to be a small earner (unless of course it hadn't been made, which it very nearly almost wasn't).

The 1979 film captured all the hypocrisy, drama and savage brutality of war without ever really being a war film. It probably didn't help that the entire world, Martin Sheen's heart and Marlon Brando conspired to fuck with the film's production as much as possible, but the result remains astonishing. The opening sequence is another one of those often parodied scenes, blending the psychedelic ramblings of Jim Morrison with Captain Willard's (Sheen) mental breakdown. They work together perfectly, throwing the audience into the chaotic world of jungle warfare and American military politics like a suddenly induced acid trip. Despite this it's the closing scene, not the opening scene, that make the choice of The Doors seems so astute. As Captain Willard rises from the water to end 'the horror' and Colonel Kurtz's (Brando) reign as tribal God, The End flickers into life, making the final few minutes one of the most disturbing and hallucinatory scenes put to film. As much an indictment of human nature as of war itself, The End is as important to Apocalypse Now as Apocalypse Now is the world.

WATCH | The Doors - The End

On a lighter note, with Colonel Kurtz gone, the tribes people will be able to eat about twice as much food as they could when that fat bastard was in power!

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