Today’s episode of Sounds of Cinema altered the show's music format a bit to feature songs inspired by films and movie stars. Here’s a look at some other songs that fit the profile.
“Electric Barbarella” by Duran Duran
Duran Duran took their name from the mad scientist (named Dr. Durand-Durrand) in the 1968 cult classic Barbarella. The band formed in 1978 and was at the height of its fame in the 1980s and 90s, in part due to salacious (for the time) music videos. In 1997, Duran Duran released the album Medazzaland, which included the song “Electric Barbarella.” It was touted as one of the first songs to be legally available for purchase online. If you listen closely you can hear some of the sound effects from Barbarella.
“Candle in the Wind” by Elton John
Elton John’s 1973 hit “Candle in the Wind” was written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, who had died eleven years earlier. Interestingly, the songwriters had heard the phrase “candle in the wind” in reference to the late Janis Joplin. In 1997, Elton John revised and rerecorded “Candle in the Wind” in tribute to Princess Diana after her death by car crash and it became one of the biggest selling singles in music history.
“Along Came Jones” by The Coasters
The Coasters were an R&B group popular throughout the 1950s and 60s. They were known for lighthearted tunes like “Riot in Cell Block #9” and “Yakety-Yak.” The song “Along Came Jones” was inspired by the motion picture of the same name starring Gary Cooper and Loretta Young. The lyrics describe a generic western movie as told from the point of view of someone watching television.
“Space Oddity” by David Bowie
David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity,” which was the first track on Bowie’s eponymous 1969 album, was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. The song is about a fictional astronaut, Major Tom, who gets lost in space, much like the astronauts in 2001. Ironically, the BBC used “Space Oddity” as background music for the broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“The Union Forever” by The White Stripes
The White Stripes 2001 album White Blood Cells included the track “The Union Forever,” which was inspired by Orson Welles’ classic Citizen Kane, a favorite film of Jack White. Most of the lyrics are taken from dialogue in Citizen Kane, so much so that Warner Bros. considered suing the band for copyright infringement.
“I’m the Droid You’re Looking For” by Nerf Herder
The band Nerf Herder takes their name from the insult that Princess Leia lobs at Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back and several of their songs make reference to pop culture and to movies, especially the Star Wars and Star Trek series.
“Valley of the Dolls” by Marina and the Diamonds
The 1967 film Valley of the Dolls has become one of the de facto show business cautionary tales. Adapted from Jacqueline Susann's novel, Valley of the Dolls tells the story of three women who are chewed up and spit out by the machinery of show business. The film had a popular title song performed by Dionne Warwick and the picture has inspired many other tributes and allusions.
“Jurassic Park” by Weird Al Yankovic
Another musician who has found a lot of inspiration at the movies is Weird Al Yankovic, who has made a career out of satirizing popular songs. His work oftentimes mixes one pop cultural reference with another such as fast food, consumer products, and movies and television shows. His 1993 album Alapalooza opened with “Jurassic Park,” a parody of the song "MacArthur Park” written by Jimmy Webb and performed by Richard Harris.
“The Red Shoes” by Kate Bush
Based on a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, the 1948 feature film The Red Shoes was about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and a career as a ballerina. The film inspired British musician Kate Bush who released the album The Red Shoes in 1993. Along with the album, Bush also released a companion short film “The Line, the Cross and the Curve.”
“Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart
Many of the lyrics to Al Stewart’s song “Year of the Cat” were inspired by the dialogue in the Humphry Bogart classic Casablanca.