Dunc's World

23 Oct 2020

Great Movie Tunes

by Duncan Fry

Don’t worry, Ol’ Dunk hasn’t gone all show-tunes on you. I’m not talking about musicals per se, but films in which a particular song or piece of music plays an integral part in the enjoyment of the film. It might be over the opening or closing credits, or during the movie, but in a modern manner, not people suddenly bursting into song over the dinner table or while ‘riding in the surrey with a fringe on top’ (Oklahoma).

So, no South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, High Society and others that my parents used to bore the living tish out of me as a child by playing their soundtrack albums!

As you might expect, it’ll be a personal, some might say opinionated view, but (sigh) it’s too late to change the habits of a lifetime now!


1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – the Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara version
This movie was, as they say, “a little late to the party” since most people who liked the books had already watched the original Scandinavian version(s) on television, as I had.

What made the movie for me though was Trent Reznor’s stunning version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ playing over the opening credits. This version of such a great song updated the rhythm slightly, and when I first saw the movie at a THX theatre, the bottom end nearly blew me out of my seat.

A fantastic, overpowering sound that got everybody’s immediate attention in the theatre. The Zep were well aware of the impact of this song, and used it as an opening number when they toured Australia in 1972 (and on many concerts worldwide, judging by the large number of bootlegs).

Luckily, I managed to record the Melbourne concert for posterity on my Philips cassette recorder so I can wallow in nostalgia whenever I feel like it!

2. Theme from Deliverance
Quite possibly the only instance of a banjo/guitar duet making it onto the charts… ever! “Dunga dung dung dung dung dung dung dung (to the tune of the plucked notes of a G major chord on a guitar).”

So popular that ‘Dungers’ became Aussie slang for hillbillies, thanks to Paul Hogan, I think. And also caused someone in every family on a trip to country areas to exclaim, “Is that banjos I hear?” and start humming the first few notes. Or maybe “Squeal like a pig, boy!” Hmmm. Depends on the family, I suppose.

3. Shaft – Isaac Hayes
Who can hear the distinctive “Wucka wucka wow wow chicka chucka” sound of an electric guitar and a WahWah pedal without saying in a deep voice “Shaft – can ya dig it?” Not me, that’s for sure!

An OK movie, but much more famous for its theme tune than for the actual film. Written by Isaac Hayes, who won an Academy Award for it, the trademark guitar riff was played by guitarist Charles ‘Skip’ Pitts.

And – for trivia fans only – in 2011 Skip also starred in a video documentary called ‘CryBaby: The Pedal that Rocks the World’.

4. Simon and Garfunkel – ‘Mrs Robinson’ from The Graduate
This is a tough one, as I was never really keen on The Graduate as a movie – I thought Dustin Hoffman played his role with all the enthusiasm of a stunned mullet.

I was not alone either; legendary US movie critic Roger Ebert said, in reviewing it, “The Graduate is a movie about a young man of limited interest, who gets a chance to sleep with the ranking babe in his neighborhood, and throws it away in order to marry her dorky daughter.”

However I was very keen on Mrs Robinson herself! Beautifully played by Anne Bancroft, she stole the show in every scene she was in. Also known as ‘Mrs Mel Brooks’, obviously Mel was punching above his weight when he met and married her!

The song is great, too. When Paul Simon pitched it to producer Mike Nichols, it was only half-written, but Nichols loved it and wanted to keep the “dee-dee-dee” and “doo-doo-doo” words that were just there as placeholders. The rest is history!

5. The Doors ‘The End’ from Apocalypse Now
A depressing song in an over-long and eventually depressing movie, this song certainly captures the futility of the Vietnam war when overlaid over the film’s grim visuals.

Perhaps on second thoughts Creedence’s ‘Fortunate Son’ might be a better one, with the timeless images of the ‘Whump-whump-whump’ explosions of the planes dropping their loads of Napalm, the clatter of the choppers, and Robert Duvall’s Colonel Kilgore’s classic quote “Smell that? That’s Napalm.” (sniffs …) “There’s nothing like it. I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!”

Has to be one of the most famous movie quotes of all-time and a great soundtrack.

6. George Thorogood – ‘B-B-B-Bad to the Bone’ from Christine
Christine is an evil 1958 red and white Plymouth Fury that has a bad habit of killing anyone who gets between her and her owner, and the ability to rebuild herself every time she gets damaged.

And if ‘Immigrant Song’ doesn’t do it for you, then the opening credits for this movie should. In fact the opening riff of George Thorogood’s ‘Bad to the Bone’ should set your feet a-tapping, and make you leap out of your seat playing air guitar!

Well, it does for me anyway. A great song for a great film, with excellent effects for 1983.

Still, as someone who has restored many cars, including a Plymouth, sometimes they do have a personality of their own, although none of mine have ever deliberately set out to murder anyone.

But it is something to think about as you work underneath a two-tonne piece of Detroit classic steel, held up only by a couple of house bricks. So always be nice to your car!

7. Joe Meek – ‘Telstar’ from The Telstar Story
Joe Meek was a pioneering 1960s record producer who not only built his own equipment, but devised a lot of the music production techniques that we take for granted today – heavy compression, heavy EQ, big reverb and more.

The movie was quite hard to find, but it’s available online now and well worth watching. I got my DVD copy from a video store that was closing down.

Joe Meek of course wrote and produced Telstar – the mega hit instrumental by his house band The Tornadoes. If you want a ‘warts and all’ look at the 60’s music scene, then this movie is for you. The re-creation of the era is excellent.

Putting my pedantic hat on for a moment though, the only thing that isn’t quite right is when Ritchie Blackmore gets thrown out, followed by his Vox AC30 amp, which bounces its way down the stairs behind him.

Bounces? An AC30? As anyone who’s had to lug one around would most certainly agree, an amp weighing 35 kilos amp doesn’t bounce at all. It just lands with one almighty ‘Thud!’ and the expensive tinkle of valves shattering!

The huge success of ‘Telstar’ led the French composer Jean-Paul Jarre to accuse Joe of pinching his electronic music sounds to make the ‘Telstar’ record. The courts eventually threw out this claim, but Meek’s career started a downward slide after that. He never recovered, and it all ended badly.

So there you go. That’s my list of great movie tunes. There are any number of lists online but I tried to stay away from other obvious popular choices and write about my own.

As they say, ‘your mileage may vary’ so if I’ve missed out one of your quirky favourites, email me – dunkworld@gmail.com – and let me know.

CX Magazine – October 2020   

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