Rarely does something exist on its own. In fact, according to my scrutinizing, there’s nothing that does. Everything we know has a correlation, most often to ourselves. Even omniscient things like our planet or space or our ideas of deities have their standard definition, their primary relation, and then a minor, secondary definition or connection we make to something else, be it another object or idea or even just to ourselves. For example, hardly anyone sees a bald eagle and thinks of it just in terms of its zoological existence. They immediately relate the eagle to its status as America’s national bird, or maybe to the first time they saw one in person. Sometimes this secondary correlation even surpasses the object’s original place of existence in the universe. For example, if you show a 20 year old a picture of an eggplant, or, more specifically, the eggplant emoji, there’s an almost 100% chance eggplants are not what will come to said adolescent’s mind.
I experienced this phenomenon yesterday as I was getting my haircut. I’m lying in the chair, fighting the urge to fall asleep while my barber trims my beard, and faintly, I hear something. It’s soft, just loud enough to conjure an indistinct image of the object the sound itself evokes. I woke from my lather induced daze and turned my ears to the ceiling speakers to better listen and bring this fuzzed image into focus. Immediately my mind produced the picture I was searching for and I smiled as I realized this was the first time I’d heard the song independently of the film that introduced me to it. As I relaxed back into my chair, allowing the aromas of the shave soap to lull me into a vegetative state, my mind drifted down a thought stream of what other objects in the universe do I incorrectly define when I encounter them? Specifically, what songs have been ruined by the movies they appeared in?
Movie: The Sandlot
Song it ruined: “This Magic Moment”
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s composition is quintessential mid century American pop. Smooth vocals over a gentle, repeatable beat that relaxes the listener while imprinting the lyrics just strongly enough to evoke fond reminisces of love cherished. Hear this song and you might be transported back to a time of soda shops, car clubs, and high school love. Oh and segregation too, can’t forget that. That’s not what I hear though. When I hear The Drifters hit the chorus of “This Magic Moment,” my brain instantly pictures Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorus swindling Wendy Peffercorn into a kiss. Doesn’t matter where I am, doesn’t matter how I’m hearing the song, put it on and that’s all I can remember.
Movie: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Song it ruined: “Faithfully,” Journey
I thoroughly enjoy Talladega Nights. If I catch it while I’m scrolling channels I’ll stop and watch at least 30min. Michael Clarke Duncan (RIPower) is a great pit crew chief, surprisingly (at least to me) hilarious, and, if you’ll suffer my hot take, this is Will Ferrell’s 2nd greatest comedic achievement, after The Campaign. Talladega Nights is fraught with quotable lines and memorable scenes, few more so than when Ricky Bobby’s mousey former secretary Susan, played by Amy Adams, shows up at the bar where Ricky first met Jean Girard. Adams transitions her character through the stereotypical meek and invisible beta to classic type A smoke show in typical monologue form. Accompanying Adams’s crescendo of character development is Journey’s “Faithfully,” gradually rising in volume along with Amy’s speech, climaxing to the chorus at precisely the moment Susan is so overcome with the passion her belief in Ricky’s driving talent has filled her with she climbs on top of the booth and flings herself into Bobby’s unsuspecting lips.
Everything about the scene is cliché. The monologue, Adams’s character development, the soundtrack, we’ve all seen it before in sports movies, rom coms, and cheap, straight to DVD dramas. But that’s what makes it so good, and that’s what imprints Journey’s ballad as nothing more than the accompaniment to Adams’s character’s metamorphosis from mousey secretary to seductive heroine.
Movie: Remember The Titans
Song it ruined: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell
Remember The Titans has more than its share of memorable aspects. Early Denzel putting in yet another trophy grabbing performance, baby faced Ryan Gosling providing little more than an Easter egg for later audiences to find, and, of course, plenty of period nostalgic period music to really hammer home the movie’s setting. While overall an enjoyable film, director Boaz Yakin does admittedly hamfist the racial interactions, none more prominently than when the team’s struggles with integration are quelled with some healthy PG mama jokes. Then, like an after dinner brandy, the team decides to indulge themselves in a nightcap of good ole fashioned interracial camaraderie with a sing along to Marvin and Tammy’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” during which we get both the defeat of the last racist holdout teammate and some confusing homophobic messaging, confusing because Yakin plants his movie firmly on the fence whether the scene is pro gays or anti gays. It’s weird, it’s cheesy to the point that if Denzel and Will Patton weren’t in the movie it probably would’ve gone straight to TV, and it perfectly ruins a classic song.
Movie: Forrest Gump
Song it ruined: Every Song Released since 1950
I could pen a completely separate piece on all the songs Forrest Gump ruined. Think about any song your dad listened to before he conceived you and I guarantee it was in this movie. Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Lynrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Doobie Brothers, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, good GAWD it just doesn’t stop. The other day I heard “You Can Go Your Own Way,” while walking around Macy’s and I immediately thought of Forrest Gump running across the US instead of Fleetwood Mac. Watch the movie and try to keep up with how many songs this film attached to its litany of iconic scenes.
Movie: Top Gun
Song it ruined: “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” Hall & Oates
If Forrest Gump is the definition of a film’s ability to transcend a song’s original existence, Top Gun is the definition of a film’s ability to absolutely ruin a song. I mean just wreck it, sour it for all of eternity. I’m probably being biased here because I’m realizing the more and more I watch Top Gun the less I enjoy it, primarily because Tom Cruise makes a hard case for worst acting performance ever, but this film destroys Hall & Oates’s song. I have to be honest for a long time I didn’t even realize “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” was a real song. I thought it was just some B roll bull crap they got someone to write exclusively for Tom Cruise to plod over like a plow horse on an ice rink. That little gremlin owes Hall & Oates an apology for all the people he’s given PTSD to so that when either version of this song comes on all they evoke is his sneering little face leering up at poor Kelly McGillis. Fuck that guy.
Movie: The Blues Brothers
Song it ruined: “Rawhide” Frankie Laine
I hesitated to put this song on the list because far from ruin, The Blues Brothers improved and gave this song its best version. Lengthened, properly remastered and recorded, and set against a comedic environment, the song reaches its full potential as an enjoyable and satirical stereotype of western music. Dan Akroyd and John Belushi meld their performances perfectly, and one can’t help but clap along as Belushi cracks the whip, acquiescing to the ridiculously close minded musical preferences of his audiences and allowing his frustrations to release with each swing. Great song, great movie.
I know I missed some, and I’m sure I missed some even more obvious and iconic ones than what I listed, but that’s why the title is called a sampling, and that’s what the comment section is for. Hit me with the ones I missed and let’s all reminisce of former songs ruined and relegated to the movies that stole them.
As always, should you reach the end of the article and find yourself with enough appreciation to warrant a compensatory shoutout, hit the link below. I promise I’ll spend it recklessly.