In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s movie always seemed to have a recognizable theme. Just in the genre of wartime movies, you have memorable themes for Where Eagles Dare, The Great Escape, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Battle Of Britain, 633 Squadron, Lawrence of Arabia, and perhaps the most famous of them all, The Dambusters.
Westerns were even more recognizable, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Magnificent Seven, the list goes on. Movies were marketed using the theme as a selling point. You could buy albums of movie themes, I had, or rather my father had one of wartime movies, and another of science fiction movies, I knew the themes better than I knew some of the movies.
Today, it is hard to name many movies that have a instantly recognizable theme, at least one that uses original music rather than a popular song. Is the theme from Avatar that memorable? What about Hurt Locker? Everyone knows the theme to Star Wars though! Perhaps part of the reason why movie soundtracks have changed is that today, if the movie is not set in space (unless its BSG) or something similarly other worldly, chances are that songs are being used rather than an orchestral soundtrack.
A good example of this is The Face ‘Stay With Me’ which seemed to be in every movie I watched a few years ago. Sahara, check, Wedding Crashers, check. When its used sparingly and with good taste, a song can become part of the movie forever. While not too many people remember or love Risky Business, Bob Segar‘s ‘Old Time Rock And Roll‘ is forever associated with that movie. Likewise anyone who enjoyed the original Police Academy will associate The Shirelles singing ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ with the Blue Oyster Club.
Television used to have the music that would be played during every episode at usually the point in each period. Today, totally different, Jimi Hendrix singing ‘All Along The Watchtower’ has me thinking of Cylons. ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ by the stones and ‘Baba O’Riley‘ by the Who both make me smiling as I remember the episodes of House they featured in. It appears to have become part of the formula for a lot of television series that in the last five minutes a song is played that is to convey the emotion of the scene. Its something that used to be done by music alone but it is now a song with lyrics as well just to make sure that the viewer understands that the lead character is sad or happy.
For this trend in television, I am glad to say that I blame Friends. How many episodes had a song playing as two or more of the Friends went through problems? Hell, the only moment from Friends I remember (not that I watched it that much) other than the infamous COMMANDO moment, was when Joey and Chandler were living in separate apartments (maybe they weren’t gay?) and U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ plays as they both sit in the window looking out into the rain, missing each other.
There are times when a movie or song makes you like or love a song that before you didn’t or perhaps you hadn’t even heard before. A great example of that is ‘Keep Me In Your Heart’ by Warren Zevon which was featured in Funny People. While I don’t mind soundtracks that only feature songs, Sahara has a great soundtrack of tracks by artists such as Canned Heat and Dr John, it would be nice for once in a while to have a movie soundtrack that is memorable and not taken from a hit album by someone or other!