last I tried my hand at assembling something approaching a definitive list of overused movie/TV music, I requested some assistance from you, the reader, in order to cover whatever egregious omissions I’d made during my initial compilation. I expected to miss an obvious title or two; I did not, however, figure I’d goof up and exclude a title as obvious as “Bad to the Bone”. Or “Rock and Roll Part 2″. Or “Gimme Some Lovin'” (which shall be referred to henceforth as “Forced Chappy Vengeance”).

Several days worth of emails and message board posts later, the only thing “definitive” about my list was its incompleteness.

So before we move on to the next phase of this noble experiment, I present to you my shame:

Dead Songs (Additions & Omissions)

“Rock and Roll Part 2″ by Gary Glitter
“A Town Called Malice” by The Jam
“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder (Assist to Will Smith)
“Gimme Some Lovin'” by Spencer Davis Group
“Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers
“Fortunate Son” by CCR
“More Human Than Human” by White Zombie
“Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed
“Bodies” by Drowning Pool
“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves (I swear this was on the first list; it must’ve been the victim of a cut-and-paste accident.)
“Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong, The Beatles, Buddy Guy, Etta James or any of the other 1,593 bands and singers and celebrities who’ve covered it.
“Woo Hoo” by The’s
“Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei
“Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley
“A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley
“You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” by Dean Martin
“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
“War” by Edwin Starr
“At Last” by Etta James
“Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night (April Fool’s Day beat Boogie Nights to this one by a decade.)
“Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey
“Mad World” by Gary Jules (Though you’re free and clear on the Tears for Fears original)
“Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright
“Jump Around” by House of Pain
“Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot (While the haunting, contemplative “Posse on Broadway” languishes.)
“Good Lovin'” by The Rascals
“Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men
“Song 2″ by Blur
“Smack My Bitch Up” and “Firestarter” by Prodigy
“Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane
“For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays

And maybe the deadest song of ‘em all�

“Like a Rock” by Bob Seger

It’s possible/certain that there are even more songs eligible for this list (the paucity of Phil Collins-penned tunes is surprising), so if you see or hear that challenges the aforementioned titles for sheer monotony, to the corresponding message board thread with you!

Now, Part II: “Owned Songs”.

This is a trickier proposition. For starters, designating a certain piece of music as verboten based on its effective usage in a previous film is a hopelessly subjective task. It’s also elitist in a way, but I’m okay with that; the only other option is to maintain the status quo, which means running the risk of hearing “Hold Tight” roaring on the soundtrack of some generic family comedy as a bunch of kids tear apart a suburban house much to Steve Martin’s feigned dismay. This is unacceptable.

Therefore, as recommended in the previous column, it is necessary that we establish some sort of master list of songs that shall remain off limits until deemed otherwise by a review board comprised of filmmakers who’ve most memorably harnessed the power of popular music in their movies over the last several decades: i.e. Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Cameron Crowe and John Landis (there are other filmmakers who are equally gifted, but seven directors ought to do it). And for one week out of every year, this group will convene to hear arguments from upstart directors who feel their gritty mob epics just won’t captivate without the churning, cock-throbbing vitality of The Rolling Stones (and for this temerity, these burgeoning young non-talents will be forced to score their films exclusively to Edmond O’Brien froggy-voiced rendition of “Rock Around the Rock Pile”).

Because secondary usage isn’t so much a skill as it is a gift. And only filmmakers with a deep and learned appreciation for music should ever attempt it. Just look at the repurposing wizardry of Quentin Tarantino: both volumes of Kill Bill were riddled with clever swipes of Ennio Morricone and, in one whistling instance, Bernard Herrmann. But he only got away with the latter because he was personally familiar with Roy Boulting’s fairly obscure Twisted Nerve. Most filmmakers rely on high-profile music supervisors like Chris Douridas to track down unusual cues for their movies; when Tarantino writes a screenplay, he already knows what track is going where (though he never writes the cues in for fear of getting mugged on the licensing fees). His ear is almost unerring, and even when he misses (Death Proof‘s lift of Pino Donaggio’s crushingly tragic theme from Blow Out is distracting and kind of pointless given the weightlessness of the scene), at least he’s flaunting his good taste.

If only most filmmakers thought things through to this extent; mostly, it’s all about what worked before, and hoping that the audience is disengaged enough to not notice their thievery. This is how damn near every song from The Big Chill keeps turning up twenty-five years after its soundtrack became a sad cliché. And this is why the “Dead Songs” list is a necessity (if only it were enforceable). All we can do for now is keep the hacks and sub-hacks honest; hence, this director-by-director compilation of “Owned Songs”, replete with notation just in case you can’t remember the scene in question.

A word on this categorization: if I couldn’t think of a corresponding image for the song, it didn’t make the cut. This is why both Peter Frampton tracks from Dazed and Confused have been omitted. Also, if it’s a “Dead Song”, ownership is moot, so farewell and adieu “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”. Finally, this is a very limited sampling of directors because very few have the body of work to qualify.

Let’s start with the master:

Martin Scorsese

Mean Streets

“Be My Baby” by The Ronettes (Harvey Keitel can’t sleep.)
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones (Johnny Boy enters Tony’s bar.)
“Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes (Pool hall fight.)

Raging Bull

“Intermezzo” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (Opening credits)


“Rags to Riches” by Tony Bennett (“As far back as I remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”)
“Then He Kissed Me” by The Ronettes (Copa tracking shot.)
“Atlantis” by Donovan (Tommy retrieves shine box, shows it to Billy Batts. Repeatedly.)
“Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes (Jimmy closes the book on the Lufthansa heist.)
“Gimme Shelter” (Henry’s no good, very bad, coked-up day.)

Quentin Tarantino

Reservoir Dogs

“Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection (Opening credits.)
“Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel (Michael Madsen takes an ear.)

Pulp Fiction

“You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry (Jackrabbit Slim’s dance-off.)
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green (The back of Marsellus Wallace’s noggin.)
“Flowers on the Wall” by The Statler Brothers (Is that Marsellus Wallace toting pastries?)
“Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill (Mia Wallace’s pre-OD dance.)
“Surf Rider” by The Lively Ones (Exit diner, closing credits.)

Jackie Brown

“Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack (Opening credits. And it’s fair game because this version isn’t used in Barry Shear’s 1972 film.)
“Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” by The Delfonics (Max Cherry digs The Delfonics?)

Kill Bill

“Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra (Opening credits)
“The Lonely Shepherd” by Zamfir (“Revenge is never a straight line. It’s a forest.”)
“Twisted Nerve” by Bernard Herrmann (Elle’s Theme)
“Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Santa Esmeralda (House of Blue Leaves)
“Nobody But Me” by The Human Beinz (House of Blue Leaves; violated by Martin Scorsese for The Departed)
“L’Arena” by Ennio Morricone (Out of the coffin, through the Earth, and to a diner.)
“About Her” by Malcolm McClaren (The bride stalks Bill after putting her daughter to bed with Shogun Assassin.)
“Goodnight Moon” by Shivaree (Closing credits)

Death Proof

Everything on the Jukebox
“Hold Tight” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mike & Tich (Behold, the benefit of a death proof auto!)
“Chick Habit” by April March (Closing credits)

Cameron Crowe

Say Anything

“In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (Lloyd and the boom box)


“Chloe Dancer” by Mother Love Bone (Unofficial theme; impossible to hear without recalling the film.)
“Dyslexic Heart” by Paul Westerberg (Can’t think of a specific scene; I just never want to hear this song again.)

Jerry Maguire

“Secret Garden” by Bruce Springsteen (“You complete me.”)
“Singalong Junk” Paul McCartney (Jerry and Dorothy make out.)

Almost Famous

“Tiny Dancer” by Elton John (Bus sing-a-long)

Vanilla Sky

“Everything In It’s Right Place” by Radiohead (The movie may be uneven, but Crowe at least got the beginning right.)
“Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel (Cruise and Cruz have a heart-to-heart.)


“Jesus was a Crossmaker” by The Hollies (Beautiful opening sequence. The movie never follows through.)
“My Father’s Gun” by Elton John (Spreading dad’s ashes.)

Brian De Palma

Body Double

“Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (Craig Wasson does porn!)

The Untouchables

“Vesti La Giubba” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (Assassination of Malone)

Carlito’s Way

“You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker (Closing credits.)

Spike Lee

Do the Right Thing

“Fight the Power” by Public Enemy (“Radio Raheem, you are disturbing my customers!”)
“Can’t Stand It” by Steel Pulse (Sweltering heat montage.)

Mo’ Better Blues

“Acknowledgment” from A Love Supreme by John Coltrane (Bleek Gilliam discovers life after music, through music.)

Jungle Fever

“Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder (Flipper searches for Gator at the “Taj Mahal”.)

Malcolm X

“Shotgun” by Junior Walker & The All-Stars (The walls close in on Malcolm.)
“A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke (Malcolm’s long walk to the Audubon Ballroom.)

The 25th Hour

“Bra” by Cymande (The Philip Seymour Hoffman “What Have I Done?” dolly shot.)

Wes Anderson


“Making Time” by Creation (Max Fischer’s many pursuits.)
“A Quick One While He’s Away” by The Who (Max and Herman Blume go tit-for-tat.)
“The Wind” by Cat Stevens (Max is inspired anew.)
“Ooh La La” by The Faces (Closing credits)

The Royal Tenenbaums

“These Days” by Nico (Hope washes over Richie’s face as Margot exits the bus. This version of the song is done, but there are 113 other renditions that might still work.)
“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon (Royal Tenenbaum takes it out and chops it up with his nephews.)
“Needle in the Hay” by Elliott Smith (Richie attempts suicide.)

John Landis

Kentucky Fried Movie

“Hevenu Shalom Aleichem” by anyone (The capital of Nebraska is Lincoln.)

Animal House

“Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen (Enter the Delta House)
“Shout” by Otis Day and the Knights (No explanation needed.)
“Shama Lama Ding Dong” by Lloyd Williams (“Wait ’til Otis sees us! He loves us!”)
“Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke (Bluto and the buffet.)
“Let’s Dance” by Chris Montez (Food fight.)
“Theme from A Summer Place” by Max Steiner (Forgettable in Delmer Daves’s non-classic; timeless when underscoring the tender sight of Bluto inexplicably pouring mustard on his chest. And Eric Stratton seducing Dean Wormer’s wife. And Pinto preparing to commit statutory rape.)

The Blues Brothers

“Think” by Aretha Franklin (Matt “Guitar” Murphy gets an earful.)
“Shake a Tail Feather” by Ray Charles (That keyboard does have decent action after all.)
“Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway (Best impromptu opening act ever.)
“Theme from Rawhide” by The Blues Brothers (“What key?” “A. Good country key.”)
“I Can’t Turn You Loose” by The Blues Brothers Band (“Do you have the Miss Piggy”)

An American Werewolf in London

“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (David stresses over a full moon.)
“Moondance” by Van Morrison (David shags Nurse Price.)
“Blue Moon” by Sam Cooke (David’s transformation.)

Richard Linklater

Dazed and Confused

“Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith (Opening credits.)
“Jim Dandy” by Black Oak Arkansas (Cruising for a paddling.)
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper (Mitch Kramer takes his licks.)
“Summer Breeze” by Seals & Croft (Mitch’s morning after.)
“Free Ride” by Dan Hartman (No specific scene jumps to mind, but this is all D&C.)
“Slow Ride” by Foghat (Closing credits.)
“Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (The keg is kicked. And Cole Hauser should remain seated.)

Before Sunset

“Just in Time” by Nina Simone (“Baby, you are gonna miss that plane.”)

Again, this list is very much a work-in-progress.� There will be additions, omissions and, if you’re lucky, emissions over the coming weeks.