It seems like every studio-released movie today comes pre-packaged with a shiny soundtrack (Iron Man 2‘s AC/DC fest is a riff on 1986’s Maximum Overdrive).
Sometimes a big hit emerges from the mix, but most often, songs used to promote the film in another venue, say iTunes, quickly disappear into the ether.
Gone, but not entirely forgotten, most, if not all, of the following songs from movies have found their way to the afterlife of YouTube.
Here are ten top tunes to seek out…
Sweet Talkin’ Candy Man (Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls)
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls features the usual perks of a Russ Meyer flick (including a star turn by Dolly Read), great rapid-fire editing, and boasts a script full of quotable lines by Roger Ebert.
Kudos also go out to the blazing songs, such as Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense And Peppermints (which turned up in Austin Powers).
The film chronicles the fictitious band, The Carrie Nations (featuring Kelly MacNamara, Casey Anderson, and Petronella Danforth), on their titillating rise (and fall) from stardom. The uptempo, psychedelic soul rocker, Sweet Talkin’ Candy Man is twice featured on the soundtrack. The best version is the one heard ‘live’ in the film’s raucous party sequence.
Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young (Streets Of Fire)
Jim Steinman, the man behind Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler’s biggest hits, penned a pair of tracks that bookend this glitzy 1984 Walter Hill flick. (Ry Cooder did a few others, though the biggest song was Dan Hartman’s catchy, if fluffy, I Can Dream About You.)
Steinman’s operatic style gelled well with the two cuts from the movie, both performed by Fire, Inc. and featuring vocals by Laurie Sargent and Steinman regulars Holly Sherwood, Rory Dodd, and accompaniment by the E-street Band’s Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg.
The opening number, Nowhere Fast, is a great take on the orchestral single released for Steinman’s own Bad For Good album, but the movie saves the best for last with the over-the-top Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young. Complete with thundering bass, huge piano chords, and synthesizers aplenty, it looks great getting lip-synced by Diane Lane and photographed by Andrew Laszlo, and holds up just as well on record.
The Hell Of It (Phantom Of The Paradise)
Paul Williams, the diminutive performer responsible for The Muppet Movie‘s immortal Rainbow Connection, provided both the song score as well as a memorable star turn as the villainous record producer Swan in Brian De Palma’s mash-up of Faust, Phantom Of The Opera, Picture Of Dorian Gray, and various glam rock excesses.
The movie is propelled by a frenetic, inspired sort of chaos De Palma had mastered in the mid-70s, and Williams’ song score fits it like a glove.
Best of the bunch is Williams’ vaudeville-meets-power chords The Hell Of It, which plays over the extended end credit sequence. The soundtrack also boasts a totally cool album cover, based on a poster design for the film.
Flesh On Fire (Teen Wolf)
You can almost smell the hairspray and feel the tight leather pants in James House’s Flesh On Fire, which sounds exactly as the mid-80s ought to sound, complete with earnest synthesizer chords and ‘heavy’ rhythm guitars.
Lyrically, the song’s creepy misogynism is completely out of place with the film’s high school setting: “I search the clubs, the cafes and the boulevard / But every blonde on display is a neon doll / They’re all so flashy and trashy and try too hard / I can’t believe you were only a dream.”
Only heard sparingly around the film’s climax at the school dance, the song is a weird, if catchy choice to open the soundtrack. The album (and film) is better served by Amy Holland’s more wholesome ballad, Shootin’ For The Moon.
My Love Has Two Faces (Deadfall)
This 1968 caper flick with Michael Caine doesn’t tend to register in the memory, although the score by John Barry is a knockout, complete with a 14 minute guitar concerto that Barry himself conducts in the movie.
My Love Has Two Faces sounds like a better James Bond title song, and is performed by no less than Shirley “Goldfinger” Bassey. The album, released by Film Score Monthly’s Retrograde Records, features an alternate take sung by an unnamed male artist, with a vibe that sounds like it practically came out of the recording sessions for Thunderball.
One Of The Living (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)
Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero was the big hit that got major airplay over the radio and music video channels back in 1985, but Turner’s other song for the movie, One Of The Living, is arguably the better pick, heard over the opening credits.
It’s got a more aggressive hook and badass lyrics, courtesy of backup vocalist/keyboardist Holly Knight: “They always said that the living would envy the dead/ So now you’re gonna shoot bullets of fire / Don’t want to fight / but sometimes you got to…”
Even Tim Cappello’s requisite saxophone solo has more bite here.
(He’s Back) The Man Behind The Mask (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives)
Who better than Alice Cooper to provide some musical accompaniment to a Friday The 13th film?
Jason Lives, the sixth instalment in the seemingly endless series, doesn’t have much to recommend, even this amusing, if somewhat sucky slice of power cheese, although there are some fun moments, such as Cooper’s ode to Harry Manfredini’s famous ‘Ki-Ki Ma-Ma’ soundtrack signature.
Not nearly as memorable as Dokken’s Dream Warriors that accompanied Nightmare on Elm Street 3, The Man Behind The Mask is notable for at least being about the movie it’s promoting, something we don’t get too much of in this day and age of movie soundtracks.
Here’s My Heart (Metropolis)
Once upon a time in the 1980s, Giorgio Moroder gathered an eclectic line-up of artists ranging from Adam Ant to Freddie Mercury and helped them assemble songs for a new cut of Fritz Lang’s dystopian Metropolis. The results were, depending on your take of the new wave pop at the time, a) a peppy updating of a classic film, or b) garbage.
Here’s My Heart, sung by Pat Benatar, became the film’s official love theme, and gets to shine in a soaring, extended version at the film’s culmination. Many of the tracks used in the movie turned out to be much stronger than what ended up on the album, and alas, Benatar’s studio released version suffers considerably.
The Cincinnati Kid sung by Ray Charles (The Cincinnati Kid)
Why is it that songs for movies sounded so much classier a couple of generations ago?
Lalo “Enter the Dragon” Schifrin scored this 1965 Steve McQueen flick about a gambler in 1930s New Orleans. The end credits feature a great bluesy number from Ray Charles complete with a 26 piece orchestra, the kind of song you’d be hard pressed to find in this day and age.
The Touch (Transformers: The Movie)
Admittedly, one can find growing bias for tacky 80s power pop on this list, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi to Stan Bush’s earnest The Touch, which could have easily fit along with a training montage to any number of the era’s action flicks.
The song was originally commissioned for Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra, but instead wound up in the original animated Transformers movie.
Mark Wahlberg sings a hilarious butchered version of it when his life comes crashing down in Boogie Nights, and Bush himself re-recorded it for the more recent live-action Transformers flick (it appears on the soundtrack, not in the film).
Having also popped up in episodes of American Dad and Chuck, it seems that one doesn’t have to stray far to get touched by, er, The Touch.
Know any other overlooked, above average songs from movies? Feel free to share the love in the comments section.