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Bad Songs in Good Films

A joyful celebration of life

By Scott ChristensonPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 4 min read
Bad Songs in Good Films
Photo by note thanun on Unsplash

Don’t you love it when a song, one you’ve forgotten, one that's stale, so old-fashioned that it will never be listened to again, makes an appearance in a film or TV show...and by blending with the show's plot is just totally AWESOME?

Here is my list of stale old songs, that have appeared in important moments in my life, and then later on again on the big screen.

Sonny & Cher - I Ain’t Got You Babe

Mom would play 'The Best of Sonny & Cher” over and over on repeat while she smoked, solved crossword puzzles, drank coca-cola, ate popato chips, and watched daytime TV, all at the same time. They didn’t have the word for ADHD back then, but I get it now (I'm the same).

We grew so sick of hearing Sonny & Cher, my sister and I recorded our own version of “I Got You Babe”. We replaced Mom's Sonny & Cher tape with ours. Being so busy with the crossword puzzle, smoking, snacking and daytime TV, she didn’t notice it was us singing and not Sonny & Cher. Being tone-deaf, this was a triumphant moment in music for me.

30 years later, Will Ferrell’s ridiculous film, Eurovision, was playing on my TV screen. A song started building up.I didn't recognize it at first. It was so good. Wait, it's from...

Cher, after she dumped Sonny.

Rolling Stones - Beast of Burden

In the 16 years I was married to my first wife, we watched a total of three films together. An oil painter, she thought films & TV were a waste of time. I twisted her arm into watching the Basquiat, well because… you know, it's a film about an oil painter. As we watched it together, when this song began to play, I felt like the world was at peace for a few minutes.

Summer Vacation'

Last summer, I spent a week in Milan with my second wife. The taxi driver who picked us up from the Milan train station (which looks like an opera house) started to sing an Italian song that was on the radio. I vaguely recognized the melody.

When the song’s chorus shifted to English, the driver turned his head around (while the car was still in motion) and beckoned us to join in.

The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby

I’m a melancholy sort of person. When I heard Eleanor Rigby the first time, I wept. Finally! A song that encapsulates how I felt most of the time.

Much later, I watched a children's film with my 5-year-old daughter and heard a song that was even sadder. (I did feel much less sad by this time)

Hong Kong dreamin’

In 2008, I moved to Hong Kong. At first, I felt disconnected from everyone and everything, so I watched all the classics of Hong Kong film, including those of Wong Kar-Wai.


Two year later this film came out.

Call Me

In the 1980s, my brother and I had a stack of 45’ singles of the pop rock songs of the era. I listened to Blondie Heart of Glass endlessly.

After watching an hour of a so-so South Korean film about a struggling wanna be actress, this one returned me to that era:

Weezer - The World Has Turned And Left Me Here

When my daughter was an infant, I would rock her to sleep playing mo-town and pop rock songs, while singing softly to her.

Two decades later, she learned to play guitar, and played The World Has Turned And Left Me her to me so soulfully it brought tears to my eyes (again).

This is an honestly pretty awful cover of one of the mo-town songs I would sing to her. Go listen to the original later on YouTube by yourself.

Top Loader - Dancing In The Moonlight

What a joyful song. My daughter loved it. One of the happiest songs of all time! I heard the intro to this song often in elevators, cafeterias, and Target stores.

I’m sure it has appeared in films and TV shows, but let’s break format, as I have something more meaningful to share.

This interview with the original songwriter was revelatory to me.

“The reason why you wrote it wasn't happy at all.”

I still cry every time I listen to this. I'm not sure why.

70s music

About the Creator

Scott Christenson

Born and raised in Milwaukee WI, living in Hong Kong. Hoping to share some of my experiences w short story & non-fiction writing. Have a few shortlisted on Reedsy:

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Comments (4)

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  • Veronica Coldiron9 months ago

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane. When I saw your title, I thought about all the good songs I've actually heard in bad films. LOL! This was a nice surprise. 😉

  • Spencer Hawken9 months ago

    Great list there, Top Loader - Dancing in the Moonlight to the best of my knowledge is in the British film Four Lions about 4 terrible terrorists and the series Umbrella Academy in case you want something to connect to.

  • Naomi Gold10 months ago

    This was fun! I was cracking up laughing at your description of your mom’s multitasking, and the prank she didn’t notice. I never saw Basquiat, but now I want to. I love Courtney Love and didn’t know that movie existed. “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here” gets me every time. 💔 That was the song I played on repeat in high school when I had a falling out with my best friend. I don’t know how I missed this story, my notifications are a mess. But now it might seem like I’m copying you, because I started working on a playlist of songs in films this morning. I guess great minds think alike.

  • Sonia Heidi Unruh11 months ago

    A great list! So interesting to see how songs interact with different contexts for new meaning. ¹

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