Top 11 Songs That Became Movie Titles
“I would rather turn my head and cough than see any part of ‘Patch Adams’ again. The title of this movie should have been ‘Punch Adams!’
— Gene Siskel
11. “P.S. I Love You” by the Beatles
“P.S. I Love You” was recorded by the Beatles in September 1962, a month after drummer Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr. Producer George Martin, unaware of the change, hired session drummer Andy White for the recording. As it turned out, White played bongos on the track and Starr added marimbas. The song was first released in the US on 1964’s Introducing… The Beatles.
The tune was primarily written by Paul McCartney during the group’s trips the Hamburg. “That’s Paul’s song,” John Lennon said in All We Are Saying. “He was trying to write a ‘Soldier Boy’ like the Shirelles.”
“It’s just an idea for a song really, a theme song based on a letter, like the ‘Paperback Writer’ idea,” McCartney explained in Many Years From Now. “It was pretty much mine. I don’t think John had much of a hand in it. There are certain themes that are easier than others to hang a song on, and a letter is one of them. ‘Dear John’ is the other version of it. The letter is a popular theme and it’s just my attempt at one of those. It’s not based in reality.”
The 2007 film P.S. I Love You stars Hilary Swank and Gerald Butler. The romantic drama was panned by critics but grossed $156 million worldwide.
10. “Strange Brew” by Cream
“Strange Brew” is the opening track of 1967’s Disraeli Gears, Cream’s second album. Eric Clapton performs falsetto lead vocals on the song, which originated as a cover of the 1934 blues standard “Hey Lawdy Mama.” Ahmet Ertegun began as producer but after Felix Pappalardi came up with an idea for the song, he was asked to produce the rest of the album.
“He took home with him the tape we had previously recorded of ‘Lawdy Mama,’ which was a standard twelve-bar blues,” Clapton explained in his 2007 autobiography, “and came back the next day having transformed it into a kind of McCartneyesque pop song, complete with new lyrics and the title ‘Strange Brew.’
“I didn’t particularly like the song, but I respected the fact that he had created a pop song without completely destroying the original groove. In the end, he won my approval, by cleverly allowing me to include in it an Albert King-style guitar solo.”
“It was very much against my wishes but at that moment I had absolutely no power in the band, in the studio,” bassist Jack Bruce told Guitarist. “That was just the way it was at that point, because Ahmet Ertegun was more or less in love with Eric. He thought Eric should be the frontman.”
The Strange Brew film was a 1983 Canadian comedy starring Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as SCTVcharacters Bob and Doug McKenzie. In an attempt to get free beer, the unemployed brothers try to blackmail a store by placing a live mouse in a beer bottle.
9. “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Who’ll Stop the Rain?,” backed with “Travelin’ Band,” was one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s great double-sided hit singles. Released in 1970, it reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
Written by John Fogerty at the height of the Vietnam War, “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” is thought to be an indictment of Washington warmongers. The song was used as the title of the 1978 film that starred Nick Nolte as a merchant marine sailor who attempts to smuggle heroin from Vietnam to San Francisco.
Fogerty has hinted that the song was written about the deluge of rain at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. In 2007, Fogerty said at a concert in Shelburne, Vermont, “A lot of folks seem to think I sang this song at Woodstock way back then. No. I was at Woodstock 1969. I think.
“It started to rain, and got really muddy, and then half a million people took their clothes off! Boomer generation making its presence known, I guess. Anyway, then I went home and wrote this song.”
“Originally it was written about the reign of Richard Nixon,” drummer Doug Clifford told Forbes. “The reign from the sky, you know, Tricky Dick, and what was going on. So take your pick — written about Woodstock or about the reign of Richard Nixon. I think if I had to make a choice now, it would be about the rain at Woodstock.”
8. “Sea of Love” by Phil Phillips & the Twilights and the Honeydrippers
Philip Baptiste was a love-struck bellhop at the Chateau Charles in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1958. Baptiste tried, unsuccessfully, to woo a young woman named Verdie Mae. “She’d not always be a lover and I had my guitar, so I went and wrote this song, ‘Sea Of Love,’” Baptiste recalled in One Hit Wonders. “You see, she really didn’t believe in me. But I felt if I could sing about it, a sea of love, you know, where it’s quiet and peaceful, I could really show her how much I loved her and cared for her.”
Baptiste was discovered by a local record producer, George Khoury, and recorded “Sea of Love” at the Goldband studio. “We went in there, and I sung the song over and over again. We went back the next night, and the next, and over and over again we went on that tune, until we were sure that we got the cut on it.”
Before the record was released, Khoury convinced Baptiste to change his name to Phil Phillips. “Sea of Love” was a smash hit, rising to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. Despite its success, Phillips says, ‘the only thing I did get off that record as an artist was $6,800.” It would be the only chart appearance for Phillips.
The Honeydrippers, with Robert Plant and Jeff Beck, had a number three hit with “Sea of Love” in 1984. The 1989 film starred Al Pacino as a New York City detective trying to catch a serial killer.
7. “Peggy Sue Got Married” by Buddy Holly
“Peggy Sue Got Married,” released in 1959, was one of rock’s first sequel tunes. The song referenced Holly’s 1957 hit “Peggy Sue.” Both songs were inspired by Peggy Sue Gerron, the girlfriend of Holly’s bandmate in the Crickets, Jerry Allison.
Holly wrote “Peggy Sue Got Married” after Gerron and Allison wed in 1958. The couple later divorced. Holly accompanied himself on guitar and recorded a demo of the song on a tape recorder at his Greenwich Village apartment on Dec. 8, 1958. Holly never heard the completed version. He was killed in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959.
Coral Records used Holly’s demo to create “Peggy Sue Got Married.” Session musicians added backup vocals and and a music track on June 30, 1959 at Coral Records’ New York studio.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 fantasy film starring Kathleen Turner as a woman who is transported back to her 1960 senior year in high school.
6. “Happy Together” by the Turtles
Legend has it that by the time the Turtles heard “Happy Together” by songwriters Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, it had been played for so many people that the acetate demo was almost worn out. “Happy Together” became the Turtles only number one hit in 1967.
“We were on such a small, little record company — White Whale Records — that it is mind-boggling to me how our records even got heard,” Mark Volman told Boomerocity. “It’s amazing to me that a record on White Whale like ‘Happy Together’ could knock a record like ‘Penny Lane’ out of the number one slot in the United States.
“It was just a small, little, tiny company. We had to play on every record we made. The records you’re hearing are Al Nichol and Jim Tucker and Howard Kaylan and Don Murray. We’re not celebrating the great musicians of Hollywood with the Turtles music at all. The only Wrecking Crew we had was the record company who almost wrecked our records! Ha Ha!”
Volman said in Tinnitist that “whether you’re 6 years old or 100 years old, the song ‘Happy Together’ has somehow permeated your life. It has become, in its own way, a musical icon. It represents the best part of a very spirited period of American history.”
Happy Together is a 1997 Hong Kong romance drama starring Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai as two lovers trying to rekindle their relationship.
5. “Tequila Sunrise” by the Eagles
Although it has become a concert favorite, “Tequila Sunrise” only reached number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released in 1973. It was one of the first collaborations by Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who decided they should write together after they finished recording the debut album, Eagles.
“I love the song,” Frey told Cameron Crowe. “I think the goal of any songwriter is to make a song appear seamless, to never show the struggle. Nothing should sound forced. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ was written fairly quickly, and I don’t think there’s a single chord out of place.”
“I believe that was a Glenn title,” added Henley. “I think he was ambivalent about it because he thought that it was a bit too obvious or too much of a cliché because of the drink that was so popular then. I said ‘No — look at it from a different point of view. You’ve been drinking straight tequila all night, and the sun is coming up!’
“It turned out to be a really great song. The changes that Glenn came up with for the bridge are very smart. That’s one song I don’t get tired of. ‘Take another shot of courage’ refers to tequila — because we used to call it ‘instant courage.’ We very much wanted to talk to the ladies, but we often didn’t have the nerve, so we’d drink a couple of shots and suddenly it was, ‘Howdy, ma’am.’”
Tequila Sunrise is a 1988 romantic crime film that stars Mel Gibson as an ex-drug dealer trying to go straight.
4. “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad and Soul Brothers Six
Grand Funk Railroad’s “Some Kind of Wonderful” reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1974. Drummer Don Brewer sang lead vocals on the tune, a cover of a 1967 song by the Soul Brothers Six, an R&B group from Rochester, NY.
John Ellison, the group’s lead singer, explained that he wrote the tune as he left for the group’s first recording session. “I stopped by the apartment of the girl I was dating, to say goodbye. Her name was Ann White. She had packed me a lunch in a brown paper bag. We stood there in silence for a moment just looking at each other. I knew this was the last time I would see her.
“I looked at her and said, You are some kind of wonderful, I’m gonna write a song about you.”
Jimmy Ienner, who had replaced Todd Rundgren as Grand Funk’s producer, discovered the tune. “Jimmy was a pop guy too,” Brewer told Vintage Rock. “He had worked with the Raspberries and Three Dog Night and several others. And we looked at him for the same reason. We wanted to keep that trend of hits of going on.
“We were also facing at that point — 1974, ‘75 — rock was fading and disco was coming in and we weren’t going to be a disco act. So we started focusing a little more on R&B. Grand Funk is really kind of an R&B band pumped up on steroids. We focused a little more on the R&B and it worked. We came up with ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ that way.”
The 1987 film is one of the romantic teen dramas written by John Hughes in the 1980s. Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson play teens working out their problems in a suburban Los Angeles public school.
3. “My Girl” by the Temptations
“My Girl,” written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White of the Miracles, became the Temptations’ first number one hit in 1965 and their first single to feature David Ruffin as lead vocalist. “David Ruffin, I knew, was like this sleeping giant in this group because he had this — it’s sort of like a mellow gruff-sounding voice,” Robinson explained on NPR.
“And all I needed was the right song for his voice and I felt like I would have a smash hit record. So I sat down at the piano to write a song for David Ruffin’s voice. So I wanted to make it something that he could belt out, but yet make it melodic and sweet.”
Robinson described in USA Today how Motown Records founder Berry Gordy broke the news of the song’s success. “Back in those days, Berry Gordy had a policy with all the producers at Motown: If you produced a №1 record, you got a $1,000 bonus check. I had been on the road with the Miracles for two weeks and come back to Detroit, and Berry calls me to his office. He said, Here’s your check. And I said, My check? And he was like, Yeah, you’ve got a №1 record, ‘My Girl.’ It’s only been out two weeks but it’s going to №1, so here’s your check in advance.”
My Girl is a 1991 coming-of-age drama that stars Anna Chlumsky as an 11-year-old girl growing up in 1972.
2. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones
Many think that the Stones’ 1968 anthem “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is about Mick Jagger’s charismatic stage persona. The song was intended for the 1968 album Beggars Banquet but was not included. It marked a return to their blues sound from the psychedelic excesses of their previous album, 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request.
In his autobiography Life, Keith Richards explains that the song “came from a grey dawn at Redlands,” Richards’ UK home. “Mick and I had been up all night, it was raining outside, and there was the sound of these heavy stomping rubber boots near the window, belonging to my gardener, Jack Dyer, a real country man from Sussex. It woke Mick up. He said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s Jack. That’s jumping Jack.’
“I started to work around the phrase on the guitar, which was in open tuning, singing the phrase ‘Jumping Jack.’ Mick said, ‘Flash,’ and suddenly we had this phrase with a great rhythm and ring to it. So we got to work on it and wrote it.”
Whoopi Goldberg starred as a computer operator in Jumpin’ Jack Flash, a 1986 comedy. Goldberg helps a British intelligence agent escape from the KGB in Eastern Europe.
1. “Bad Boys” by Inner Circle
Inner Circle is a Florida-based reggae band formed in Jamaica by brothers Ian and Roger Lewis. “Bad Boys” was released to little attention on their 1987 album One Way. Everything changed in 1989 when the pro-police TV show Cops adopted the song as its theme. “Bad Boys” became a Top 10 hit when re-released in 1993 but its use as a pro-cop anthem angered the group’s fans. The Lewis brothers intended the song to be a cautionary tale for kids who might get into trouble with the law.
“I hope people take a moment to understand that the song is about teenage life and becoming semi-aggressive as you start growing up,” Ian Lewis told Rolling Stone. “The song isn’t about telling the police to lock people up or beat them up; it’s about troubled kids who have problems at home.”
The song was picked up in 1995 by the Bad Boys action comedy franchise, which stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as two Miami narcotics detectives.
This story appeared in Rock Cellar May 14, 2021