June 23, 2005

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

That's another quote that didn't make the AFI list. (I write about the movie, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," here.) John Tabin cites the quote as he debunks that compassionate lions story.

Hmmm... two animal posts in a row for me. How much more animals stories will I have? There are probably blogs that just do all animals stories. It would be very easy to monitor the daily stories about animals and link to them.

Another blog idea I had -- not for me to actually do, for somebody else -- would be to simulblog C-Span constantly. I had this idea while simulblogging the AFI quotes show. I think it's really fun to watch TV and just do a little post every fifteen minutes or so -- just some random observation or wisecrack or critique. Someone could do that with C-Span, just all the time, and do nothing else. Maybe someone already does.

Speaking of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," the 60s on 6 channel of XM radio had a whole long show a few days ago, interviewing Gene Pitney and playing his various songs. I knew something strange was going on when I got in my car, put on my favorite station, heard "Town Without Pity" playing -- which isn't at all strange -- and realized it was being sung in German. Then there's Gene, presumably a pretty old man, talking about his career, talking about how the words to that song were translated into a blander story in German, because the story the song is based on involved a rape case in Germany and a straight translation would have been too upsetting.

Pitney goes on to talk about the cool song "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," which many people hear before ever seeing the movie, think about when seeing the movie, then wonder, why wasn't the song in the movie? Well, the song was supposed to be in the movie and was written for the movie. It wasn't just some fan of the movie singing about a movie. Pitney didn't have any real explanation of why the song wasn't put in the movie. I suspect the nice poppy sound just didn't fit in the Western setting and was judged inappropriate -- perhaps by the director (John Ford). But why didn't Pitney know that? Maybe he did but didn't want to say.

Anyway, writing that last paragraph, I was trying to think of an example of a pop song that names a movie, but wasn't written in connection with the production of the movie, just somebody talking about a specific movie. The closest I could get were songs that referred to movies more generally, like "My Baby Loves the Western Movies," and "Watching the Detectives." Can you think of any? Use the comments, either to add to my generic movie reference songs or to supply examples of the kind of song I couldn't think of. It seems to me that people who write a lot of songs are always looking for subject matter and you'd think that they'd also go to the movies and then feel like writing about them. I'm sure there are plenty of songs inspired by movies that don't even mention movies -- you know, love songs written by people who don't have love stories in their personal life to draw upon.


Adam said...

You say that we've got nothing in common
No common ground to start from
And we're falling apart
You'll say the world has come between us
Our lives have come between us
But I know you just don't care

And I said what about "Breakfast at Tiffany's"?
She said, "I think I remember the film,
And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it."
And I said, "Well, that's the one thing we've got."

--Deep Blue Something, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1995)

Ann Althouse said...

For some reason that got me thinking about the Velvet Underground song "New Age." Isn't that based on the movie "Heat"?

"Can I have your autograph?
He said to the fat blonde actress
You know I've seen every movie you've been in
From Paths of Pain to Jewels of Glory
And when you kissed Robert Mitchum
Gee but I thought you'd never catch him."

Kind of counts as a reference to "Paths of Glory" too.

winston said...

"Key Largo" by Bertie Higgins.

Richard Fagin said...

I gave you one yesterday: "Goldfinger." The theme song sung by Shirley Bassett was on pop radio in 1964.

If you don't like that one, there's always, "Where the Boys Are" by Connie Francis in 1960.

If you like Elvis Presley, there are "Kissin' Cousins", "Girls Girls Girls", "Viva Las Vegas" and "King Creole" to name four. Aw, heck, add "Love Me Tender" and "Jailhouse Rock" to that list.

Contributors said...

Springsteen's "Nebraska" is about Malick's "Badlands." A film loosely based on the true story of Starkweather's murderous rampage in the 1950's -- but it was the movie that was the inspiration.

'From the town of Lincoln, Nebraska with a sawed off .410 in my lap

Through to the Badlands of Wyoming killed everything in my path

I can't say that I am sorry for the things that we done

At least for a little while sir, me and her we had us some fun'

Springsteen might've called the song Badlands after the movie but had used that title in an earlier song. Of course he may not have wanted to be that 'on the nose' even if he hadn't.

Side note: Is "Starkweather" a great name for a spree killer or what?

Vicky said...

Re: "examples of the kind of song I couldn't think of"

Weird Al Yankovic's songs often reference specific movies (off the top of my head: Star Wars, Spider Man, and Forest Gump) in the course of a musical parody.

twwren said...


As in John Wayne to James Stewart: "What is it now, pilgrim... your conscience?"

Mark Daniels said...

A new song could be, "A Film without Pitney."

A number of years ago, James Taylor did a version of, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." I like it better than the original.

But it's not hard to imagine that John Ford wouldn't have cared for anything that smacked of rock and roll, no matter how Pat Boone-homogenized it may have been.

Adam and others are right to point to songs written long after films have become iconic, vying to become ex post facto themes. My favorite in this category is Bill Murray's version of "Star Wars," back when he played the airport lounge singer on "Saturday Night Live." Using John Williams' melody as part of a cheesy medley, Murray sang soulfully, "Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars..."

Of course, some suggest that in at least one instance, musicians went way beyond creating a theme song for a movie. Remember the rumored connection between "The Wizard of Oz" and "Dark Side of the Moon"?

Troy said...

Pink Floyd -- Wizard of Oz. That is true but coincidental. Turner Classic Movies played the Wizard of Oz a couple of yars ago and timed The Dark Side of the Moon on the SAP so you could listen simulataneously. Perfect... perfectly creepy..., and perfectly unintentional according to I think it was Roger Waters who I heard disavowed any intentional connection.

Old '60s country and very bad movie connection. Harper Valley PTA -- double bleccchhh! and also the '70s Robbie Benson movie -- Tallahachee (sic) Bridge Billy Joe McAllister or something.... Awful movie.

Troy said...

And of course a lot of the old musicals are from songs aren't they? "On the Town" "Singin' in the Rain" "42nd Street" "American in Paris"

Ann Althouse said...

Twwren: "That'll Be the Day" the great Buddy Holly song is based a line in "The Searchers." The subject of the film isn't in the song, just the one line.

Troy: "Ballad of Billy Joe" and "Harper Valley PTA" are movies made from the song, not the other way around.

Joseph Angier said...

Wasn't there a Byrds song ... one of their later ones, and not very good ... with several movie titles mentioned, including in the song's last line: "Poor Citizen Kane"?

Ann Althouse said...

Richard Fagin: You're naming songs that were in the movies. Of course, there are tons of those.

Contributors said...

"That'll be the day." That deserved the AFI top 100. Man, Wayne was great in that movie.

I have another one: Neil Diamond's "Heartlight" is about "E.T."

Troy said...

Ann... Oh you're one of those professors who insists on directions being followed! :-)

The Metallica song "One" is from a movie called "Johnny Got His Gun" where a man loses his limbs, voide and blinks in SOS "Kill me" (or at least the video is based on it).

Troy said...

Make that the song is inspired by the movie -- not "from" the movie.

Richard Fagin said...

Prof. Althouse: actually, the songs I mentioned were also the titles to the named movies.

Ann Althouse said...

Richard: Yes, but we're looking for "an example of a pop song that names a movie, but wasn't written in connection with the production of the movie, just somebody talking about a specific movie."

So any song that's heard in the movie isn't what I'm looking for.

Ann Althouse said...

Troy: "One" is a great video. Is the song about the movie too? There are a lot of cool videos that allude to movies.

Troy said...

Ann... I want to say, but it's so hard to remember from those hallowed hazy (not quite so...) days of college, but I believe the song was inspired by the movie and the video director went and ran with it. Until I can find a DVD archive of every 1989 or so Headbanger's Ball episode (back when MTV actually played music!)I can't say with certainty. I'm fairly certain though.

Also, I think the U2 song Stay! (Faraway So Close) was about the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire (where and angel falls in love -- and remade -- poorly in comparison IMHO into a Meg Ryan pic) and then was subsequently put on the sequel's soundtrack (named the same as the song). Regardless -- awesome song and video.

Adam said...

I can't believe I forgot this one -- "The Union Forever", by the White Stripes, is completely inspired by -- and steals the majority of its lyrics from -- Citizen Kane, including the number by the "dancing girls" early in the film.

Joseph Angier said...

The Byrds ... from what I call their "Skip Battin years." I remember them doing this in concert, and putting me to sleep. Re-reading the lyrics, it appears that "Citizen Kane" is just used as part of a list of movie characters, rather than a reference to the film itself.

Written by Skip Battin and Kim Fowley

Fat ugly fat man swam
In a red tire made of stone
A painted lady paddled next to him
With two poodles on her lap
Garbo quietly picked a flower
While the chauffeur won his check again
And Barrymore took a noon day nap? ? ?
And diamond fell like rain
Cisco Kid and a bald headed waitress
Trapped ’neath a bed of brass
The French cook served them chocolates
And some cold cuts on the grass
Louilla ripped her zebra pants
In the Polo Lounge
And Errol Flynn was not let in
Cause he was coming down

Up in Xanadu diamonds fell like rain
Citizen Kane was king poor Citizen Kane

Valentino suddenly appeared
In his midnight blue tuxedo
Had a falcon on his shoulder
Eating chicken from his hands
And Fatty Arbuckle waddled by
On way to the bath house green
Frankenstein ate the leading lady
And licked the carcass clean

Up in Xanadu diamonds fell like rain
Citizen Kane was king poor Citizen Kane

Ann Althouse said...

Joseph: That just reminded me of one I should have thought of right away, "Motorpsycho Nightmare."

"I was sleepin' like a rat
When I heard something jerkin'.
There stood Rita
Lookin' just like Tony Perkins.
She said, "Would you like to take a shower?
I'll show you up to the door."
I said, "Oh, no! no!
I've been through this before."
I knew I had to split
But I didn't know how,
When she said,
"Would you like to take that shower, now?"...

Well, I don't figure I'll be back
There for a spell,
Even though Rita moved away
And got a job in a motel.
He still waits for me,
Constant, on the sly.
He wants to turn me in
To the F.B.I.
Me, I romp and stomp,
Thankful as I romp,
Without freedom of speech,
I might be in the swamp."

While mostly referring to "Psycho," it also contains a reference to "La Dolce Vita."

We could also put this song on a list of songs that name particular magazines (Reader's Digest) and songs that name particular provisions of constitutional law (freedom of speech). And songs that name dictators (Fidel Castro).

Lonesome Payne said...

Off topic, but I love the line, from E Costello, the first line of "Motel Matches": "Somewhere in the distance I can hear 'Who Shot Sam?'..."