Titular Movie Theme Songs
by Zeus | 2003-03
Back in the 80s, every movie had its own theme song. These weren't random hits chosen to sell soundtracks -- these were titular theme songs -- the title of the film was in the lyrics!
Index by Movie Title
- The Secret of My Success
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Revenge of the Nerds
- The Neverending Story
- The Graveyard Shift
- Weird Science
- Big Trouble in Little China
- Howard the Duck
Secret of My Success by Night Ranger (1987)
Download MP3 Clip (323 KB)
Secret of My Success taught us that a farmboy can move to New York, convince his uncle to give him a job, have sex with his aunt, arrange a hostile takeover of his uncle's company and still come off smelling like roses. Chalk it up to Michael J. Fox, the only man who could bounce a puppy off a brick wall and somehow make it seem charming.
Secret of My Success is the kind of song that plays when you're remodeling an old house or building a laser or mastering karate. This particular montage shows Fox and his yuppie girlfriend doing research and talking low blood sugar. And even though the song I'll always associate with the movie is Oh Yeah by Yello (which plays while Fox's aunt seduces him in the backseat of a limo), this film isn't called Oh Yeah, it's called Secret of My Success. So there.
Turtle Power by Partners in Kryme (1990)
Download MP3 Clip (301 KB)
As a child, I was diagnosed with Turtlemania. Cartoons, action figures, I couldn't get enough. Fortunately, a local theater held a free Thanksgiving double feature. The first film, Parenthood, remains one of the dullest memories from my childhood. But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more than made up for it.
The baby turtles were adorable, and my favorite mutant -- Raphael, because he was Red -- wound up being the kind of sulking anti-hero Hugh Jackman only dreams of. But the best part, at least judging from audience reaction, was when Kasey Jones sent Shredder's right hand man flying with a golf club. "Fore!"
Of all the why-the-heck-are-they-playing-rap songs of the 80s, this was the best. Every time I hear, "And they displayed... Turtle Power" I want to jump in and sign the chorus. But I can't, because it's in Robot Language and I flunked Assembly.
Granted, Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secrets of the Ooze was more popular, only because of Vanilla's infectious Go-Ninja-Go-Ninja-Go chorus. (Everything about Vanilla Ice is infectious. Blood. Saliva. Everything.)
Revenge of the Nerds by The Rubinoos (1984)
Download MP3 Clip (459 KB)
Revenge of the Nerds introduced the world to such memorable characters as Ogre and Booger. It taught us how to laugh like a nerd, how to love like a nerd, and that if you trick a cheerleader into having sex by stealing her boyfriend's Darth Vader costume, she will fall in love with you.
These days Donald Gibb, the actor who played beer-loving Ogre, has his own line of Ogre beer.* And Curtis Armstrong, who played Booger, is the voice of the American Dad character Snot. We've come a long way, baby!
*[Also available, the Glowing Ogre Thong. It's twice as effective as a chastity belt! Gross: "Put Don's face in a special place." Disturbing: "This product is designed to fit juniors." Oh. My. God...]
Revenge of the Nerds sounds like a Weird Al Yankovic tribute band comprised of ex-Devo members. It was sprinkled with clips of the movie, like this:
Revenge of the nerds!
Revenge of the nerds!
It's this kind of forward thinking that kept The Rubinoos immune to all forms of parody. How do you mock a song called "Revenge of the Nerds"? Write a song called "Revenge of the Turds"? Talk about infantile. You call that a spoof? Leslie Nealson is rolling in his grave.
The Neverending Story by Limahl (1984)
Download MP3 Clip (413 KB)
The Neverending Story holds a dear place in my heart. I was such a big fan that I used to wrap myself up in a blanket and eat apples while watching it. No kidding. I was that big a dork. I also used to dress up like the Childlike Empress and ride around on a tricycle while eating rocks.
Not really, but I totally had you going there.
The Neverending Story captures the wonder and enchantment of the film. The vocals are provided by Limahl, who sounds a little like Annie Lennox in her prime. Set against a synthesized backdrop, Limahl's voice is soft, angelic and beautiful.
By the way, here's a picture of Limahl:
Yes, that really is lipstick and a five o'clock shadow. You're welcome.
The Graveyard Shift by...? (1990)
Download MP3 Clip (3.18 MB)
Since there is no known soundtrack and since this is one of the geatest songs to grace this miserable rock of a planet, I'm risking litigation to post the entire song. Enjoy.
Graveyard Shift is what happens when you set out to adapt every Stephen King story to film. Eventually, you get to G.
In Graveyard Shift, or Shifty McGraves as it was known in Europe, a drifter takes a job in a creepy old mill, where he and his coworkers are ordered into the sprawling basement to handle a little rat problem. While the short story fed everyone to a hoard of dog-sized rodents, Graveyard Shift makes do with a single giant bat-rat hybrid. But the REAL monster of this film is Warwick, the perverse, sadistic headmaster of the mill -- or rather, his accent.
Alternating between a deep Maine drawl and just about everything else, Warwick's accent has fascinated viewers for generations. As a California boy, I had no idea if anyone actually talks like this. It was time to call in Sharkey, born and raised. I sent him three short clips and -- because I have emotional problems -- asked him to rate Warrick's Maine accent on a scale of one to ten, from Brad Pitt in Snatch to Pure Moxy.
Ya Ever Run the Picka?
"I'd give this a 3, just for "Ya evea run tha picka?" I could actually buy that one. Then it goes straight to hell. Or London, which is close enough."
To Put it Plainly...
"I'm going to give this a 9. It deserves a 1, but his accent wanders through every town in the state. And by that I mean towns like Norway, Paris, China and Mexico."
Ain't Been Cleaned
"1. I don't think that gawmy mess is from anywhere. I think he's just drunk."
"So warm... so juicy."
"The Graveyard Shift."
No soundtrack was ever released for Graveyard Shift, and it's a real shame. The ending theme is a chunky, funky, clanky, laid back tribal-industrial song laced with sound clips from the movie. While most titular themes are so upbeat they can drive you mad (try looping Howard the Duck for twenty minutes), Graveyard Shift is strangely addictive. You gotta love how they arranged sound clips to form weird little conversations.
There was just one problem: Graveyard Shift had six songs, and it could be any one of them. So I did the only rational thing I could do: Pick the creepiest title -- They're Gone by Scott Reeder -- track him down and send him an email.
They're Gone was pretty silly - they only used a second or two when one of the workers takes his headphones off - you barely hear it at all. Still gets royalties, though! I didn't get a writing credit on the end titles thing, but I did a lot of work on that one, looping the machine sound and sampling dialogue stuff and laying it in. Can't remember an official title... That was a really fun project - I made some instruments out of bones, and Vinnie Colliuta (sp?) came in and played on a lot of it, as well as Luis Conte.
Scott Reeder is one of the nicest guys to ever reply to one of my creepy, out-of-nowhere emails. For going above and beyond the call of duty, and for making instruments out of bones, I'm going to plug his new album. I didn't get permission to print his email, so hopefully all this mad respect will keep him from turning my elbows into drumsticks.
Weird Science by Oingo Boingo (1985)
Download MP3 Clip (473 KB)
Weird Science is about a couple of randy teenagers create the perfect woman so they can take showers in their underwear with her. In the Phantom Edit of my mind's eye, the movie jumps straight from the mall scene, with its touching tribute to Carrie, to the big finale, when Frankenstein's Babe turns Bill Paxton into Pizza the Hutt. Then some mutant bikers show up, and there's a Cuban missile crisis, and -- though I'm not completely sure about this -- I believe the Care Bears play an important role in rescuing Princess Toadstool.
I probably should rent these things before I write about them.
Weird Science is performed by Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman's old band. If you were surprised by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's hidey-hidey-ho music, it can be traced back to Oingo Boingo. This song, however, is pure 80s pop. I heard it five minutes ago and the only lyrics I can remember is something about "pots and pans." Pots and pans? What the hell is wrong with me? I'm gonna go get a brainscan.
Big Trouble in Little China by John Carpenter & The Coupe de Villes (1986)
Download MP3 Clip (395 KB)
During the 80s, America was under pressure from an island country no bigger than Florida ("America's Genitals™"). Japan had ninjas, robots, car factories -- dey took our jerbs!
Enter the Burton. John Carpenter tapped into America's psyche and gave us what we needed the most: A beer swilling trucker-philosopher who could bring down a 3000 year old Chinese warlock with nothing more than wisecracks and swift reflexes.
Ironically, the beer swilling truckers this movie ostensibly targeted were outraged at the sight of all them damn Asians. Big Trouble was a box office failure. Today, China is poised to become the the dominant economic force in the world. And all because people were too stupid to realize that John Carpenter was tapping their psyches.
Big Trouble in Little China is performed by John Carpenter's band, and he actually sings on this one. It's not as bad as you think -- Carpenter sounds a little like Hewie Lewis, and other rockers I'm too young to remember. However, the music video is pure atrocity, and I've have dedicated an entire page just to it.
Howard the Duck by Cherry Bomb (1986)
Download MP3 Clip (301 KB)
Thank God that I was born into such a cool family. If my parents hadn't dragged me away from the television, I'd have never gone to the movies. It's a good thing, too, because Howard the Duck probably didn't have that long of a run...
Like Big Trouble in Little China, Howard the Duck was a box office failure. It's like one of those videogames that look like they're for kids, but the writing and humor is targeted for adults. Parents didn't appreciate the raunchy jokes (massage parlors, condoms, Lee Thompson's bedroom scene with a water fowl) and young men accostomed to Star Wars violently defecated at the thought of a Lucas movie starring the Ewok.
But in my family, Howard had found its niche. From the Duck Noir opening to the first signs that Jeffery Jones was a pedophile -- er, Dark Overlord -- right up to the Ghostbusters-style finale that pit laser-wielding duck against the Stygian hood rat Cthulhu keeps on the down low, we loved every quackin' second of it. Enough that I'm willing to humiliate myself twenty years later with that "quackin" line.
Howard the Duck is sung by leading lady Lee Thompson, who some of you may remember as Marty McFly's mother in Back to Future. She does a commendable job, but part of me wonders what it would have sounded like performed by Tori Amos, who auditioned for the part. My best guess? Crazier, and with a whole lot more piano.
Welp, that's it. The end.
Oh, all right. I tried to spare you three thousand words on why Ghostbusters is the best movie ever, but you gone and asked for it. Volume Two is coming soon, featuring more of my favorite -- and a few not so favorite -- titular movie themes. Until then... good luck on that there graveyard shift ya got there.