I’m not into supernatural and/or paranormal stuff, so I don’t watch Stranger Things, a Netflix series set in the 1980s that features supernatural and paranormal stuff. Yeah, I’ve been told I would dig all the ’80s pop culture references and homages as well as Winona Ryder, who appears in the show. But this is a case of risk – supernatural/paranormal – versus reward – the ’80s and Winona. Reward doesn’t stand a chance.
Apparently in this season, its fourth, Stranger Things uses Kate Bush’s 1985 song, Running Up That Hill. After being featured in the show, the song became a hit again, nearly 40 years after its original release. Although I’m happy for Kate Bush, I harbor an irrational hatred of that song, which only solidified my stance against watching Stranger Things.
The renewed attention to Running Up That Hill reminded me of songs I had never paid attention to until hearing them in movies, proving that the combination of song in scene can be just as important as words or costumes or actors or etc. in scene. With that in mind, here is an incomplete list of songs I discovered in movies. (The movies are in parathesis.)
- Maybe I’m Amazed (An Unmarried Woman): I have a confession. Whilst I’m a fan of The Beatles, I’m not a fan of Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. Thus, Wings’ Maybe I’m Amazed was just another song for me until I watched 1978’s An Unmarried Woman and saw Jill Clayburgh and her movie daughter sit at a piano and belt out the song. Now when I hear Maybe I’m Amazed, I think of that scene, which shows the close relationship between mother and daughter in a flick about Clayburgh, a married woman (at the beginning of the movie) who learns her husband has been unfaithful.
- Misunderstanding (Mona Lisa): This song, by the group Genesis, was so off my radar that I thought it was called Understanding. I can’t remember exactly when Misunderstanding is played in Mona Lisa, a 1986 British crime drama, but it undoubtedly left its mark because I sought out the song afterward. I still do.
- I Got a Name (Django Unchained): Jim Croce’s 1973 tune, which had never before made an impression on me, was a perfect choice for this 2012 movie. I loved the scene where it’s played: Django and the dentist ride horses over snowy landscapes as mountains loom in the distance. But I hated the rest of the movie so much that I swore off the director’s subsequent work. I did not develop an irrational hatred for the Croce song, though. On the contrary, I developed a fondness for it.
- Levon (The Ice Storm): When I was fact checking myself, I saw that Croce’s I Got a Name was also on The Ice Storm’s 1997 soundtrack. (I told you it didn’t make an impression before Django.) Until The Ice Storm, to the best of my knowledge, I had never heard Sir Elton John’s 1971 song, Levon. I became consumed with it afterward. Written by Sir Elton’s longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, the song’s lyrics have been the subject of much speculation. Taupin told Rolling Stone he didn’t know what he intended as the meaning and that the lyrics were just lines that were interesting. The lyrics, including “Jesus blows up balloons all day, Sits on the porch swing watching them fly” certainly caught my interest.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.