Jarv’s entirely subjective and not at all coloured by personal prejudice list of the Greatest Songs written for films!

 

I haven’t done a list for a while, but it’s a quiet Friday and I’ve not watched anything due to the sun being out, and therefore compelled to go to the pub. However, a discussion earlier today led to me thinking about what are the greatest songs ever recorded for films?

To define the rules here- the song has to have been expressly commissioned and recorded for the movie. So the likes of Little Green Bag or Son of a Preacher Man are hereby prohibited from the list. Secondly, because Bond films could probably supply the whole list themselves, I’m only allowing 1 Bond theme. Thirdly, no Disney, because those tend to be musicals anyway, and the obvious candidate is Elton John’s Circle of Life from the Lion King. Which leads me in to 4, if I don’t like the artist in any way  then that’s out, so ta ta Elton, and also goodbye McCartney. Fifthly, no Rap/ Hip Hop, because as a genre it relies on samples, and the sample is invariably not commissioned for the film. Finally, I’m not doing this in any particular order- these all have merits, it’s just 10 great tracks.

And I’ll cheat if I feel like it. So, let the list/ pointless arguments commence! 

Huey Lewis and the News: The Power of Love (Back to the Future)

Who doesn’t love this? Who doesn’t love Back to the Future? Aside from my assistant, who’s never seen it. Admittedly, she has the massive drag factor of being French, and therefore is actively prohibited from ever having an opinion about music, but Jesus suffering fuck, how can you not have seen Back to the Future? Honestly, it makes me despair of the youth of today. Anyhow, ranting aside, The Power of Love is a storming tune, and one that fits the time of the film perfectly. Performed by Marty McFly at the Battle of the Bands in BTTF, Huey (judging) hilariously criticises it for being “too damned loud”, a sentiment not shared by fans of the film since.

The song developed a life all of its own after the film was released, and despite not being the official “theme” of Back to the Future, is, I’d argue the tune most associated with it. Nevertheless, it went on to be a global smash, peaking at Number 1 in several places in the world. Aside from Continental Europe, which just proves my point.

Judy Garland: Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz)

There’s no denying that this is a track that really has stood the test of time. Garland was miles too old to be playing Dorothy, frankly, and as such had a more fully developed voice than a girl the correct age would have. When she belts out Over the Rainbow at the start of the Wizard of Oz, it’s still, to this day, a genuinely magical cinematic moment.

 Written by Harold Arlen(music) with lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, this eventually grew to become Garland’s signature track, to the extent that she even performed it for troops during World War 2. It’s astonishing now to think that Mayer deleted it from the film, believing that it slowed things down too much- talk about your “I could have signed the Beatles” type of decisions. Luckily, associate producer Arthur Freed and Garland’s voice coach Roger Edens fought to keep it in the film and eventually won out.

Frequently hailed as one of the most important songs of all time, Over the Rainbow has been covered endlessly with Eva Cassidy’s version, in particular attracting huge praise. There’s something about the wistful quality of the tune that will, I suspect, draw female singers often, and it’s testament to the song that a cover version some 60 years after the original was recorded was rated by the BBC as one of the 20th Century’s best tunes. Perhaps because, like Garland herself said “It’s so symbolic of everybody’s dreams and wishes that I’m sure that’s why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it.”

Curtis Mayfield: Superfly (Super Fly)

The first appearance from Blaxploitation in this list. To be fair, the 1970’s could probably provide half of it were I so inclined.

Blaxploitation is all about the cool, and there’s little cooler than this. Super Fly (I haven’t seen the film) is about a young black drug dealer’s battle with the underground and features a performance by The Curtis Mayfield Experience. I’m actually a bit cross with myself that I haven’t seen the film.

Nevertheless, the song is so successful, that despite me not having any relationship with the film itself, I’m hugely familiar with it and it does, frankly, rock. It’s a cracking slice of 70’s soul/ funk that lurks on my ipod and makes me smile nowadays.

Isaac Hayes: The Theme from Shaft (Shaft)

The definitive Blaxploitation, featuring a storming turn from Richard Roundtree as the titular private dick who’s a hit with the chicks, Shaft is a frankly superb film. I’ve seen it a number of times, and every time I always enjoy it.

However, a big part of the appeal of Shaft is the soundtrack. Another slice of classic 70’s Soul/ Funk, Isaac Hayes double album was a massive success, and the title track, the epic Theme from Shaft, clocked in at number 1 with a bullet in the Billboard 100.

It may be endlessly parodied, but it still remains a fantastic tune, and this represents one of the finest marriages of music and film that I can think of. Hayes, aside from being Chef, never musically reached these heights again, although his on-screen career does include gems such as his turn in Escape From New York, and Roundtree ended up stuck in interminable garbage such as the seemingly endless Shaft sequels. Still, there aren’t many out there that can lay claim to being a cultural icon, but, partially because of Hayes’ epic music, Roundtree surely can.

Carly Simon: Nobody Does it Better (The Spy Who Loved Me)

This is my one and only Bond theme, and it’s the best. While Shirley Bassey may be forever linked with Bond themes, having performed more of them, and some of the classics, I think Simon’s Nobody Does it Better is the best of the themes. Incidentally, as an aside, McCartney and Wings’ Live and Let Die was considered before I disregarded it due to my pathological loathing of the vainglorious overrated sanctimonious ex-Beatle. Not to mention that Wings were to blame for the truly horrible Mull of Kintyre.

The Spy Who Loved Me has, arguably, the greatest opening to any bond film. Truly iconic, the ski chase down the mountain culminating with the Base Jump and the Union Jack parachute is one of the most famous, and most parodied Bond moments ever. Nevertheless, it’s also fantastic, and when the song comes up behind it, there’s a cheeky feel to the film, it’s fun, it’s brave and it’s bold- really, nobody does it better than Bond.

Incidentally, the makers of the new Bonds might want to look at this to remind themselves why people like Bond (hint, it’s not because he’s Jason Bourne in disguise).

As Garland became inextricably associated with Over the Rainbow, so too did Simon to some extent with Nobody Does it Better. It may not be an instant association (You’re so Vain would probably be that for me), but the song was an astonishing hit, and she has since entitled her greatest hits albums “Nobody Does it Better”.

In this case, Carly, nobody has.

 

Simon & Garfunkel: Mrs Robinson (The Graduate)

Brilliant song, this one, from a genuine classic.

Paul Simon was originally contracted to produce three songs for the Graduate, as Mike Nichols had grown to become obsessed with the midget’s music. However, due to touring commitments he’d only managed one. Nichols was less than pleased about this, and so begged Simon to write the rest. Simon responded with that he didn’t have time, but here’s a new tune he’d done called “Mrs Roosevelt”. Nichols reply? “It’s now called Mrs. Robinson”.

Thus, music and film history was made.

The end of the Graduate is endlessly parodied, for a change, but it’s a great film, and Simon’s perky little number fits right in to this, and went on to be a pretty massive hit in both Britain and America.

Kenny Loggins: Danger Zone (Top Gun)

Yes it’s cheesy, but so’s the film. The film’s also a touch in the closet, much like its star.

Top Gun is a big, bombastic knuckleheaded film, one that almost transcends stupidity, but there’s something fun about watching dogfighting. The opening scene, though, is, again, the best bit of the film and the Moroder and Whitlock penned Danger Zone really encapsulates what the film is going to be like.

Originally meant to have been recorded by Bryan Adams, who declined due to not being happy with the Jingoism on display, Danger Zone only passed to Loggins as third choice- and I can’t believe he was behind hair metal poseurs Toto in the queue. That’s absurd.

Still, it’s a fun song, but the Top Gun soundtrack is full of bizarrely amusing and strangely appropriate musical choices- one that always makes me laugh is “Playing with the boys” during the homoerotic beach volleyball sequence.

They must have known, surely.

B.J. Thomas: Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Burt Bacharach and Hal David have an almost unequalled career penning songs. Spanning decades, they really have a very strong case for being the original hit factory.

Anyhow, Thomas was, for a change, not first choice for this tune, yet when he took it on, the song turned into a massive hit, peaking at number 1 in the Billboard charts. So, it all worked out nicely for him, then.

The scene it’s in, is Butch riding the bicycle with Etta (Katherine Ross). It’s a moment of levity, the calm before the storm so to speak, and is another scene that’s been endlessly parodied. In fact, it’s so good, that the song/ scene has appeared in other versions films- including Spider-Man 2 where it was used to accompany Peter’s sense of levity, much as it was in Butch and Sundance.

Not only was Raindrops and the film a commercial success, but it was multi-award winning as well, including the Oscar for Best Original Song. Not that that means anything, but it’s indicative of just how good a sequence this is.

Bob Dylan: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid)

This reminds me: I haven’t seen this film in ages.

Specially commissioned for the film, Dylan’s epic Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is a great tune. Describing the final moments of a deputy as he lies there dying of a gunshot wound, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is absolutely appropriate for a film detailing the final encounter between one of the Old West’s most iconic gunslingers and the lawman that took him down.

This is another one that’s been endlessly covered, and it’s the song that fits my theory about Dylan being a better writer than performer, as the covers, particularly Clapton’s epic version, tend to be far superior to the original.

Still, a great tune, from one of Peckinpah’s better films.

 Survivor: Eye of the Tiger (Rocky 3)

I, actually, don’t think this is that great a tune. However, I’m including it for a very specific reason. In my mind, and lord knows why this is, but when I think of Rocky, I almost always think of this song rather than Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now.

This says something about the tune in my mind. Yes, it may not be the best piece of music ever recorded, but there’s a certain adrenaline charge to the song; a level of bombast that fits both the story of the champion boxer and the time it was filmed in.

Stallone actually wanted Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust for this, but was unable to get it, so requested this version done especially for him by Survivor. The principle difference between the album and movie versions is that, in an act of pure 80’s cheese, the film version features samples of actual tiger noises in it.

Awesome.

________________________________________________________________

There were loads considered that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, but this deeply flawed and biased list is at least a starting point for us to have our usual bicker about.

I’m going to come back to this musical theme at some point, probably with either scores or soundtracks.

So until then,

Jarv.

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

68 responses to “Jarv’s entirely subjective and not at all coloured by personal prejudice list of the Greatest Songs written for films!”

  1. Jarv says :

    Hehehehehe

    That took ages.

  2. Droid says :

    I don’t think of Eye of the Tiger when I think of Rocky. I think of the iconic trumpet belting out Bill Conti’s theme tune.

  3. koutchboom says :

    No Titanic song. Fail. That shit still hits hard.

    • Jarv says :

      Fuck off.

      Frankly

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah I knew you wouldn’t be man enough to put it. Shit still solid bro, great ballad. I guess that’s why they stopped fucking doing it afterwards because it can never be topped.

      • Jarv says :

        Fuck off.

        Seriously. Shit song in a shit film. You can menstruate to it, but I’ll pass, frankly.

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheheh wow, did the girl that dump you, was that the song you two shared?

      • Jarv says :

        some of us don’t need to pretend to like that shit to attract women.

        But you keep at it. Knock yourself out.

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheheh sooooo you have to like good movies and song uses to get women? Is this what I’ve been doing wrong all these years? Very well.

        Heheheh Bahahahahahah seriously if you weren’t married I’d know you’d stink. I’ve only used movie theaters as a means to finger bang chicks, who gave a fuck what we saw.

      • Jarv says :

        Fuck me.

        You are stupid. Did I say that?

        No.

        What I said was that I didn’t have to fake some interest in awful shit to impress.

        As for smelling, currently uneployed IT nerd, what are you? 9?

        Oh, and finger bang? Really? Nice one. Studmuffin.

      • koutchboom says :

        Dude if you wanna impress the ladies, all you need is to show them you own Jagged Little Pill, works ever time bro.

      • koutchboom says :

        And since your being a little bitch about this I’m wearing my Titanic t-shirt tonight in your honor.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh, do go away, child.

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheheh I’m the child? Your the one whose unwilling to admit the greatness of My Heart Will Go On because that’s “girl stuff”? Bahahahahah yeah I’m the four year old here in this relationship. I bet you’ve been listening to that song on repeat since I brought up you little fucker.

      • Jarv says :

        I’m beyond tired of this shit.

        It’s nothing to do with being girl stuff, I don’t care about that. If you want to make it some misogyny type thing, again, because this worked out so well for you last time, then I will patiently explain why you’re wrong.

        That’s a musically dreadful track, pure commercialism and utterly out of context in the film. It’s mawkish, frankly fucking embarrassing, and if you think it’s the shit, then good for you, but I pity your eardrums.

        I know you’re trolling me here, because usually you are very solid with music.

        This is not a dick measuring competition, and nothing to do with “Manliness”.

        I don’t want this to be uglier than it has to be, so please feel free not to type shit like that last sentence again. That’s the latest personal attack that I’m choosing to ignore.

      • koutchboom says :

        Dude come on if you got time to lean you’ve got time to clean.

      • koutchboom says :

        And yes you failed the only real valid argument you have against My Hear Will Go On is that it’s not AS good as I Will Always Love You. Better luck next time.

      • koutchboom says :

        Also I love how when you know I’m right you just turn to that same ole typical “mom Koutchboom’s trolling me again! WAAAA”, it’s getting old at this point, learn to stand up for yourself and be a fucking man bro, because this shit….when the real time comes, won’t fucking stand.

  4. Continentalop says :

    Rainbow connection should have been on this list.

    And the Titanic Ballad is really a total piece of commercialism. The film has no songs with lyrics until the end and than pulls out an over-the-top ballad? Doesn’t even feel like it is part of the film.

    • Continentalop says :

      And you might not like rap (I’m not much of a fan either) but Fight the Power from Do the Right Thing should be on this list.

      • Jarv says :

        I do like rap. Best years of my career were working for death row records.

        My objection is purely musical- the use of samples precludes it.

      • Continentalop says :

        Sampling never really bothered me as long as the sampled from more than one source and did something to it to make it unique and give it a new meaning/context. I guess it’s the editor in me, the whole “juxtaposition of two images to create a new, third, meaning.”

      • Jarv says :

        I did think about allowing it, but then I remembered the amount of time I spent filling out MCPS forms, and how the original music was not them, so I discounted it.

        I do take the point- and tend to agree outside of the purposes of this list.

  5. Xiphos0311 says :

    I agree completely with you about Carley Simon and Nobody Does It Better. In fact i would probably rate it much higher then you did. It’s near perfect combination scene and music. When Bond goes over the cliff dumps his skies and pops his shroud and the Union Jack unfurls is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema. When the first notes of NDB comes up while Bond drifts down is a perfect melding of music and image.

    Now about the Rap 99.9% of it is undigested corn in shit.

    • Jarv says :

      Totally with you on SWLM. Genuinely think it’s the best opening scene of any bond film, and one of the finest out there of any movie full stop. Couldn’t work better, in my opinion.

  6. tombando says :

    You will hate it, I like the Jazz Singer from ’80, love or hate the movie: Neil Diamond did America, Hello Again and Love on the Rocks.

    You will hate it part too: Eddie and the Cruisers. John Cafferty say Wha-? Yes.

    You will hate it part Three: Score from Field of Dreams. Great stuff.

  7. tombando says :

    Oh and Jarv, Danger Zone? Very good. You Were paying attention.

  8. Bartleby says :

    Im really puzzled by the lack of ‘Where are You Christmas?’, ‘Somewhere Out There’, and ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.’ If you are going to write something like this, I wish you would at least include that classics. At least your issues with rap explain the absence of that LL Cool J song about his ‘hat is like a shark’s fin’ from Deep Blue Sea.

    In non-bizzaro world speak, this was a really good article, Jarv. Maybe one of your best. I’d love to see some follow-ups. Like Conti, I immediately thought of Rainbow Connection’ and I’d probably say ‘You Got a Friend in Me’ although TS is sort of a musical I guess.

    I think the era of great songs for movies is well and truly over. Name a really good one from the last decade or so, and when the best you can do is Enya’s ‘May It Be’, you will see what I mean.

    • koutchboom says :

      Hero from Spider Man 1 is solid. That American Idol thing at the end of African Cats was really good as well.

      • koutchboom says :

        Also I’d say Tron as a whole blows everything from this past decade out of the water. Watch it again last night, still an amazing movie. Such style and epicness to it. Joss Wedone would be smart to take note. Also Joss should watch Ghost Rider 2 as well, THAT’S how you fucking reveal a character not just…OH there’s Thor…fart. Like in all seriousness Avengers is one of the least epic movies ever created, I’m willing to bet the Veggietales movie has more epic moments.

      • Jarv says :

        Tron Legacy is a score. I’m coming to this one in the future. Along with Virgin Suicides and a few others.

      • Jarv says :

        Hero? Seriously?

        Whatever.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah that’s probably the only good Comic Book song ever, whose that not a solid tune? Vindicated is also really good, but Hero is more suited for the subject matter. Lemme guess your a fan of that shitty Foo Fighters song pooped out at the end of Thor? Or that even more worthless than their comeback Soundgarden song vomited out at the end of Avengers.

        Heheheh no no no you like that awful Velvet Revolver song from HULK. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA yeah that’s a GOOD SONG and Hero’s not.

      • Jarv says :

        No.

        None of them are good.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah Hero’s fucking solid your off your rocker about that.

    • Jarv says :

      Cheers mate. I haven’t done music before- it’s tough, actually, without going all knowlesian on it.

    • Jarv says :

      The problem with the last decade is that music has been terrible plastic RnB dominated garbage. The nearest contender is probably Lose Yourself. Aside from that, though, most music is awful.

      There have been some great scores done though- Tron Legacy, ATB, Hanna, Ink and so forth.

      Still, it could be worse with Enigma turning up in films.

  9. MORBIUS says :

    Nice one Jarv, Excellent choices all.

    I too must ingeminate The Rainbow Connection.

    TSWLM, L &LD and GOLDFINGER are equally great.

    And lest we forget, Academy Award winning …

    “It’s Hard Out Here For a PIMP”

    • Jarv says :

      Goldfinger is a great song, almost all the Bassey ones are. Bond really does bring out the best in some people. Apart from when they’re delusional and get Madonna to do it.

  10. redfishybluefishy says :

    excellent choices all! great list, jarv, if a bit too short! i will 4th the Rainbow Connection song, it really is brilliant. My Heart Will Go On can suck it. I would also add the classic Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. So many to choose from… Can’t wait for your scores list. just the mention of Air’s Virgin Suicides soundtrack…YES.

    ps- A good selection of Curtis Mayfield should ALWAYS be on one’s ipod. :)

    • Jarv says :

      Cheers Fishy.

      I like Air and love that score (even if I hate the film).

      Can’t go wrong with Curtis Mayfield.

      I think I’m going to have to come back to this, because the list of “almosts” was huge. Rainbow Connection, Moon River were two that I considered, and there’s always Tina Turner.

      I’m also thinking about best music Biopics, because there’s loads there to go at- Even down to What’s Love got to do with it.

    • Bartleby says :

      Moon River!!! Yes, even if I’m not the world’s biggest Breakfast at Tiffany’s fan.

      I think the thing with Dion’s tune and Horner’s score are that they are perfect for the movie they are attached to. Take that as you will. I think though, they will never be as iconic as the stuff Jarv mentioned because they will never have an identity apart from the film. Almost all of the songs mentioned above, while easily connected to their source, live on their own as songs apart from the film.

      Hero by Nickelback is an excellent example of exactly what I mean when I say we are well out of the era of good film commisioned songs. It’s obvious, noisy, and good for exactly one listen partially through the credits.

  11. tombando says :

    Titanics score works just fine, ditto Dions tune.

    • Jarv says :

      Got to disagree. I think the score is mawkish, and her song is both crass and almost gratuitously drippy.

      Furthermore, I dislike her voice and the mock Celtic style business grates on me.

      • tombando says :

        I thought the faux Enya stuff was appropriate, and Dions song just seems to connect. You would find much of what I will listen too, mid-70s Paul Anka, Jonathan Livingston Seagull Soundtrack and Johnny Rivers, to be cloying or sappy Jarv. Titanic soundtrack worked. I prefer the JFK or Lawrence of Arabia scores absolutely, for example, but whatever. I dont expect everyone likes what i like
        Thats for sure.

      • koutchboom says :

        I need to listen to that Enya song. Did it win an Oscar? Or didn’t Annie Lennox do a song for the second or third one of those things and she won an Oscar?

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah Annie Lennox won the Oscar for that Into The West whatever song, yeah I remember that now. Roughly around the same time my dad died, always knew that bitch winning an Academy award would cause someone close to me to die.

  12. tombando says :

    I Walk the line and Ray soundtracks too.

  13. ThereWolf says :

    Yeh, ‘Rainbow’ & ‘Raindrops’ – fantastic.

    I, too, think of the fanfare in Rocky, not the song. ‘Nobody Does It Better’ – saw a documentary about the making-of several re-done Bond songs (David Arnold). I think Aimee Mann got that one & she ripped the lyrics a new one, very disparaging. I think she’s missed the point. But there was an interesting version of ‘From Russia With Love’ on that album, off the top of me head I can’t think who did it…

    I liked ‘Titanic’ – but the song is inappropriate and not very good. But I did like ‘Hero’, thought that was decent.

    Good work, Jarv.

    • Jarv says :

      The shaken and stirred album? There were some interesting choices on that.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Shaken & Stirred, that’s the one. And I think the ‘From Russia’ singer is called Natasha Atlas.

        Iggy Pop does ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ – decent. And ‘OHMSS’ by the Propellerheads is simply awesome. I can’t remember anyone else – Pulp are on there and maybe Chrissie Hynde but I dunno who does what.

        ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ – kd lang… that’s a tune as well.

  14. Continentalop says :

    Here’s one we all may have overlooked – “Put the Blame on Mame” from Gilda.

  15. MORBIUS says :

    Also wanted to thank you for Mrs. Roosevelt / Robinson anecdote.
    Never heard that one before.

  16. MORBIUS says :

    Don’t know why I didn’t think of it before but, I’ve always liked

    “To Sir With Love”. And the movie is pretty good too, innit?

  17. kloipy says :

    I can’t believe ‘Ghostbusters’ or ‘Go Ninja Go Ninja Go Ninja Go Rap’ from TMNT isn’t on here…

  18. MORBIUS says :

    CIRCLE OF LIFE from The Lion King, in my top ten.

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