A while back, when I wrote about Garland Jeffreys and his great song, Wild in the Streets, I made mention of Jeffreys’ other killer song from his Ghost Writer album (look below to see which one).
Well, that got me to thinking about the best songs written about the movies–note, not from–so I started a list. I have to think there are more, but, well, everything has to start somewhere.
By the way, tunes like Billy Joel’s (ugh) We Didn’t Start the Fire, or The New Radicals You Get What You Give don’t count. They just name people in a sort of rhyme, dropping names left and right. None has anything to do with loving film.
My Baby Loves the Western Movies (The Olympics): Released in 1958, kind of a gimmick song as were several of the tunes by the Olympics, but, hey, funky gun shot sounds, and pretty good doo wop. I confess: I bought the 45 (record, not gun).
Candle in the Wind (Elton John): Actually about Marilyn Monroe, unlike the title track which has Wizard of Oz allusions, but is not really about the movies at all. And, ok, I will take a sentimentality hit for picking an Elton song, although Rocket Man, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, and Burn Down the Mission are great tunes. Candle is really a pretty sweet homage.
Celluloid Heroes (The Kinks): Maybe the most sentimental pop song about film, but no one delivers such sweetness like Ray Davies. Period. I just love this song. I saw the band tour behind this album at Winterland (with Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks opening) and they were just stupendous. It is my fave on this list.
35 MM Dreams (Garland Jeffreys): The song that started this mess, and like Celluloid Heroes, just a great song. Sweet, sentimental, but never tawdry, like the Kinks tune.
James Dean (Eagles): This song rocks, whether you like the Eagles or not. I view the Eagles kind of like Elton John: no question talented, and some of their songs I like, but, well, we all have our lines. James Dean is a solid song, though I still think Dean remains a vastly overrated actor, having played basically the same character in the three films in which he starred. Had he lived, well, I doubt he would have remained iconic.
The Ballad of Dwight Fry (Alice Cooper): From Love it to Death, this is about a guy who goes mad watching late night movies. Dwight Fry is the character actor who plays the attorney bringing documents to the Count (Bella Lugosi) early in the film, and then becomes the vampire’s gofer. Fry is the guy walking around saying “yes master” and “we can eat spiders, and big juicy flies.” Got to love it to death, no?
The Magnificent 7 (The Clash): I would be ostracized if I missed this one, right? And, well, it is tough to not like anything the Clash did anyway.