Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 20th 2020
When the film's title track is sometimes the best bit
Recently (very recently), I was dragged along to see the film Last Christmas. This was apparently based on the opening line of a song by the 80s pop group Wham! Just the opening line; the rest of the song was discarded… along with a decent script, good acting and a coherent storyline.
Yeah, the film was pretty damn ordinary. As such, what you have just read will be the extent of the review I will give it.
This was not how the cinema looked - we were 2 of maybe 20 people there... Seriously.
However, the person who dragged me along to see it (and who liked it more than I did, but still came away very disappointed) did say at least it had a good title track. I countered it had a stolen title track. We laughed, got to chatting about title tracks and… bang! Here's another column!
All right… after our initial list hit well over 80 songs before we simply stopped (and, no, we did not run out of songs), I decided to impose some rules. Rule 1: The song must include the name of the movie. This means 'Eye Of The Tiger' by Survivor from Rocky III does not count either. Rule 2: The song must be written for the movie. So 'Yesterday' from the 2019 film of the same name is ineligible. Also the magnificent 'The Rose' by Bette Midler was unfortunately not written for the film. Sorry. Rule 3: I have to like it.
And with that in mind, here are my ten best film title songs!
'Jailhouse Rock' by Elvis Presley from the film Jailhouse Rock (1957)
One of Elvis' few good movies, made before he went to the army and became a watered-down shadow of his former rebellious self, Jailhouse Rock tells of a man who goes to prison where he learns to sing, becomes a star upon release, forgets his prison roots, but then loses his voice until it all comes right in the end. Not only is it actually a decent movie, but it has a decent soundtrack as well. He is still a rock and roll star at heart here, and the title track, one of his better songs, is a good indication of that.
'The Young Ones' by Cliff Richard And The Shadows from the film The Young Ones (1961)
I was accused of only liking this song (and also the track 'Living Doll') because of the TV series The Young Ones… but those people never met my parents, who brought me up on a musical diet of Del Shannon, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Johnny O'Keefe, early The Beatles and, of course, Cliff Richard. So I knew of this song long before the TV series and before I ever saw the film. The film is a standard bit of Cliff Richard fluff, is inoffensive, has a decent enough soundtrack, and is a harmless way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy weekend afternoon.
'Help! by The Beatles from the film Help! (1965)
One of my favourite Beatles songs and also the title track from the best of the four (5 if you include Yellow Submarine) Beatles' films. Despite its jaunty sound, this really is a cry for help, something John Farnham's cover version made very clear. The film was a strange movie featuring Eastern mysticism, Ringo's rings, kidnapping, snow and chases. And, of course, great songs. It's a weird film, but a lot of fun. And although the lyrics of the title song have little to do with the film, it is still awesome.
'Live And Let Die' by Paul McCartney and Wings from the film Live And Let Die (1973)
A few superlatives here: Roger Moore's first and best outing as James Bond, the best James Bond theme song, one of Paul McCartney's best songs post-Beatles and one of the best songs of the year 1973. Yes, there is much to love about this song. When I saw McCartney live in concert, this track was punctuated by fireworks, and it had the whole audience singing along. This is just one of those tracks that gets into your head and you can't help but love it. The fact it comes from such a good film is only a bonus.
'Xanadu' by Olivia Newton-John with Electric Light Orchestra from the film Xanadu (1980)
Okay, yes, the film is rather cheesy. It's more a guilty pleasure film than much else, but the soundtrack was an interesting combination of ELO's pop masterfulness and Newton-John's sweet voice. And this song was the near perfect mix of the two. It's catchy, there's no denying it, and it fits the upbeat ending of the film. On ELO's Flashback box set, there is the ELO-only version, but it does sound better with Olivia's voice added to the mix.
'Footloose' by Kenny Loggins from the film Footloose (1984)
This is the title track from one of my favourite movies. In the 80s, I don't think I went to a Blue Light Disco where this song was not played and where it did not fill the dance floor. It is such a happy, upbeat track, and when it is played at the dance at the end of the film, it just fits so well. And, seriously, don't tell me your feet don't move when you hear it.
'Together in Electric Dreams' by Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder from the film Electric Dreams (1984)
I have a regular reader who considers this the worst film EVAHH, and also have a former friend of exactly the same opinion. I don't mind it – champagne makes a PC sentient, it falls in love with the same woman as its owner, things go slightly insane and potentially murderous, and then it seems the computer commits electro-suicide until suddenly this track appears "dedicated to all my friends" on every radio in at least the state of California… Why, yes, I have seen the film more than once. Why? Yes, there is another song by P.P. Arnold on the soundtrack called 'Electric Dreams' but this is the one that played over the closing scenes of the film and that everyone knows and is a gang of fun. Shameful admission: I actually don't mind the film…
'Ghostbusters' by Ray Parker Jr from the film Ghostbusters (1984)
Okay, yes, as the result of a lawsuit, the similarities between this track and a Huey Lewis song were made stark (and legally binding). But there is no denying this is a great title song to a great movie. Another song that featured in quite a few discoes "back in the day", the chant-along chorus was so good. And the sheer amount of "who you gonna call?" parodies and jokes that followed it rendered the humour of the comment moot. Still great fun, and the cameos in the video clip are just bizarre.
'Purple Rain' by Prince and the Revolution from the film Purple Rain (1984)
This thinly veiled autobiopic from Prince was a reasonable film with a great soundtrack, and the title track was one of the strong songs from that soundtrack. Slow and moody, filled with 1980s synthesisers but also Prince's trademark guitar playing and a strong lyrical content, it was a strong statement at the end of what was quite a personal film. Though often overshadowed by 'When Doves Cry' and 'Let's Go Crazy', this is still a great track in its own right.
'St Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)' by John Parr from the film St Elmo's Fire (1985)
I have spoken before about how much I like the film St Elmo's Fire, but the title song was one of my favourite songs of the 1980s. In the 90s it was on my mixtape of workout songs (yes, a real cassette tape, played in a Sony Walkman™ that barely fit in my pocket). I still occasionally use it. It has a great beat, the lyrics actually have some sort of a meaning, and the song just works. And in the context of the film, with it playing over the closing credits after the characters had sort of grown up, it made sense.
Yes, I did notice that none of these songs post-dated the 80s. Very few songs actually mention the film's title in them, so I discovered, which made compiling this list a little easier than I would have thought, made all the easier still because I own all of these tracks on CD, cassette and/or vinyl. This has been a great afternoon of listening to soundtrack albums, which means university work has taken a back seat which it probably shouldn't have… oh well. These ten songs from a selection of around 30-odd just from my own music collection has been fun.