Kate's Cut - The movie songs that radio loved


Kate Pehrson

My children are now of an age where the music station playing in the car is not up to me. Technically, the rule is that the driver gets to choose, but since I listen to music I’m not ready to introduce my pre-teen daughters to…Top 40 pop station it is. Not that it’s always appropriate either, at least most of the time they haven’t quite caught on to the metaphors and innuendoes. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Having listened to my own music on mp3 devices, iTunes and CDs, or choosing public and alternative radio for so long, I’d honestly forgotten just how many times in a day a Top 40 station will play the latest chart toppers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Justin Timberlake’s latest “Can’t Stop the Feelin’”, driving to and from school, errands and practices in the last two months, but it’s at least every 45 minutes. It’s a song from the latest family-oriented animation feature from Dreamworks, Trolls, and I think it should have been called “Can’t Stop the Earworm”.

Come to think of it, I blame the movies for many of the earworms in my life.

Movies have depended on radio to promote their films through soundtracks and singles for at least my lifetime. But, while constant radio play is one thing, constant radio play of a movie track with a catchy hook is another. My childhood, teen years and young adulthood are full of movie earworms.

Let’s try an experiment:

1. I say: “Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive”, and you try not to flip into your falsetto to sing “Staying ALIIIIIIII-ih-ey-ey-iiiiiiiiii–iiiiiiive…hooooooooooo!”

2. I say: “It’s the eye of the tiger it’s the thrill of the fight” and you try to not sing the next phrase even though you really don’t know the words: “it’s the dah dah daah blah dah something rivals!”

3. I say: “Who ya gonna call?” and you say. Well, you know.

Tell you what. You name a year and I’ll give you a movie earworm. I was still an infant when 1969’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was popular, and I swear I remember cursing the radio from my crib.

A decade later (and drug-addled movie plot aside), every elementary-school-aged girl trying out for the talent show sang Bette Midler’s The Rose. Ask your 40-something wife, mother or girlfriend and I bet she still knows most of the words. In fact, 1979 and 80 were particularly rife with earworms.

9 to 5 was a 1980 comedy starring the big-hearted blonde from Pigeon Ford, Tennessee – Dolly Parton - along with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The title track song held my head hostage weeks. On the other end of the musical spectrum in 1980, Olivia Newton-John blessed satin-jacketed roller-kids everywhere with her fantasy/musical Xanadu and the eponymous title track, as well as “Magic”. And let’s not forget the soft-rock movie-synopsis-in-a-song from Arthur. (For the rest of the day, I gift you this: “If you get lost between the moon and New York Ciiihhhh-ih-TEE”.) And we can’t leave without mentioning Kenny Loggins, because I am NOT alright.

DOOT-doot-doot-doot, doot-doot. I. Boom boom boom.

Which leads me to the mid-1980s. Just 4 years later, Kenny Loggins did it to me again. I’d just like to say that no less than three (3!) boom boxes in the locker room at the state synchronized swimming meet that year in St. Paul were blasting the soundtrack to “Footloose”. I can’t think of a song on there that I like, but I know the words to every damn one. And strangely they all smell vaguely of chlorine.

But I digress.

Okay, another test.

I say: “legwarmers” or “off-the shoulder”, and I dare you not to you jump off your chair and start quickstepping while singing “She’s a maniac, MAAAY-nee-ack on the floor.”

I say: “oversize vintage trench coat” and you throw your fist in the air and sing “Don’t you forget about me”, or hold your old boom box over your head and stand in the kitchen blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”.

But now ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for DRUNK KARAOKE EARWORM BALLAD HOUR!

First up, “For Your Eyes Only” from the 1981 007 film franchise offering of the same name. Brought to you by the wee Scottish lassie Sheena Easton in her short hair and big 80s eye makeup. Bette Midler came through for talent-show-tryouts again in 1988 with – and I almost can’t type it without collapsing my head into my workstation – “Wind Beneath My Wings”. 1992’s The Bodyguard burst the vocal acrobatics of Whitney Houston into the national eardrum by reworking Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. And finally, last but never least, everyone’s in-the-shower singalong favorite “My Heart Will Go On.” OOOOOOOHHHHHH THE FEEEEEELS. I bet Celine Dion thanks her lucky Quebecois stars every time for James Cameron. Or at least she should.

But you know who I feel the worst for? I’ll tell you.

When you wake up this February 2, think of poor Phil Connors. In the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, it is estimated that the weatherman played by Bill Murray endured 12,403 days waking up to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe”, at precisely 6:00 am. At just under 34 years, that is one helluva earworm. “I got you” is right.

Got a favorite movie earworm? I’d love to know about it on Twitter @K8pehrson.