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Twelve Songs Discovered From TV Shows… From Movies… (And Heck, Even From Commercials)

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I’m pretty sure we’ve all had those moments when we are watching a show or movie:

A killer song that we’ve never heard before is playing in the background that makes us stand up and take notice. 

Maybe that song became an instant favorite and it was the start of a beautiful friendship, or maybe it was lost to you for years, as Contributing Author Link Crawford talked about in a recent post here. 

Here are a few songs that I first heard in a movie, tv show, or yes, even a commercial, that grabbed my attention. What are some of yours? Keep in mind that I’m limiting this to pre-existing songs, not ones that were created specifically for that in which they are featured.


“It’s Alright, Baby”
Komeda (1998)

In Season 2, Episode 7 of Gilmore Girls, Rory is told she needs to make more friends in school and ends up in a scary secret society with near disastrous results. The episode ends with Rory, sitting content and alone in the cafeteria, listening to this reassuring bop of a chorus on her Walkman (Discman?). The song had a retro 60s spy feel to it and I loved the little snippet we get to hear. Years later I did an internet search and found the song, by a Swedish band named after a Polish film score composer.


“Without You”
Ace Spectrum (1976)

I was recently watching the 2023 film American Fiction. As someone who has been on and off deep diving into 70s funk, soul and disco for several years, this relatively unknown sophisticated, funky gem pulled me into its orbit. The classical string intro is gorgeous, and the bass-fueled groove is infectious. 


“The Stranger“
Spence Bare (1960)

I Am Not Okay With This was a bizarre Netflix teen drama about a girl with unwanted destructive powers that are triggered by extreme emotion and cause great devastation. It unjustly only lasted one season, due to the Covid shutdown, and ended on a cliffhanger, where the unknown, mysterious man that’s been following her finally reveals himself. The scene is accompanied by this song, a wonderfully creepy country/cheesy jazz-pop hybrid whose existence feels like a miracle. The artist, Spence Bare, is somewhat of a shadowy figure himself, and appears to only have four recorded songs to his name.


“Outer Spaced”
Stonewall (1976)

Season 2 of Outer Range recently dropped on Amazon Prime –finally. In one of the episodes, there is a dive bar scene where a song is playing that sounds like Jimi Hendrix, if he was actually Deep Purple. 

Turns out it’s by a very obscure band called Stonewall out of New York City. They recorded one album in 1972 that was never released and came out as a bootleg in 1976.  The guitar riffs are undeniable and the whole song just cooks in a down and dirty way that perfectly encapsulates early-70s hard rock.


“Mixer”
Amber Mark (2019)

In Season 2, Episode 5 of the Netflix show Trinkets (2019-2020) about three girls addicted to shoplifting: The character Tabitha is showing off her new braids, and this monster of a funky track with its popping bass riff is accompanying her joy. Amber Mark is not a household name, but she’s getting some notoriety in the R&B world and made an appearance on one of Obama’s summer play lists, which is something. This song literally slaps.


“Get the Money”
Mongo Santamaria (1963)

The Lincoln Lawyer is a current Netflix show that debuted in 2022. Lawyer Mickey Haller does his best work out of his car (various Lincolns), and his preferred soundtrack includes Latin-infused 60s-era jazz, a love that he picked up from his father. While I am very familiar with Mongo Santamaria, I had not heard this song until it appeared in Episode 2 of Season 1. It’s a keeper.


“Nostalgia Guajira”
Guillermo Portables (1976)

At the end of the 1991 film The Doctor starring William Hurt (an excellent movie), this Cuban jam can be heard blasting in the operating room as the main character is performing surgery. I loved it and never heard it again.  I looked up the title just recently and listened to it.  Yeah, it still goes hard.


“Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice”
The Monks (1966)

This was inexplicably featured in an Apple iPhone 7 commercial in 2017. The Monks were a very odd mid-60s experimental rock band made up of American GIs that would dress up as Catholic monks when they performed.  This song is short, disjointed, weird, and great.


“Times of Your Life”
Paul Anka (1975)

I first heard this dreamy, wistful ballad in a 2021 commercial for Downy laundry detergent and fabric softener. I really liked it and brought it up in the comment section of The Number Ones. Another commenter replied that the song was originally written as a jingle, sung by Anka, for a Kodak commercial in 1975. Anka decided to record and release it as a single shortly after, and it went to #7 on the charts.


“Ticket to the Moon”
Electric Light Orchestra (1981)

I first heard this in a 2017 commercial for the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, where a kid is walking around his house in an astronaut space suit. It charted in the UK, but not here in the U.S. My wife’s sister was surprised I had not heard it, as it is one of her favorite ELO songs, and the album on which it appears, Time, basically sound tracked her college days in Poland.


Da Da Da, ich lieb’ dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha“
Trio (1982)

This was featured in a 1997 commercial for the Volkswagen Golf, which is where I first encountered it. I loved it right away for its ridiculously simple chorus and the instantly recognizable sound of a bottom-of-the-line Casio keyboard, being that I owned one at the time.


“Tainted Love”
Gloria Jones (1976)

This one has come up in a previous article. The first release was by Gloria Jones in 1965, as a B-side. The song would have gone virtually unnoticed were it not for the early 70s Northern Soul club scene in the U.K., where people danced to obscure fast paced R&B records from the U.S. 

Because it gained newfound popularity there, she rerecorded an edgier version of the song in 1976. 

It was this version that I heard at the end of the 2011 film, Tonight You’re Mine (or You Instead in the U.K.), about two musicians that are arguing with each other at a music festival in Scotland, get handcuffed together by a preacher, and are stuck that way for days.

This recording of the song really shook me, particularly toward the end, where she really lets go and expresses the tortured pain of the lyrics. I had known that Soft Cell’s 80s hit version was a cover but had never heard either of Jones’ versions. I’ve come to love both.

Okay, your turn!

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rollerboogie

Music is what brought me here, but I do have other interests. I like ill-advised, low budget movies that shouldn't even be close to good, but are great, and cats too.

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Phylum of Alexandria
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June 4, 2024 7:24 am

Great idea, rb.

Recently I’ve been finding that a lot of soundtracks feature selections that I already know and approve of. I feel like I designed the soundtrack from Russian Doll during a dissociative fugue, so now I have no memory doing so, but it’s straight out of my library.

Here are some examples that come to mind. Mostly from movies.

Master of the Flying Guillotine: “Super 16” by Neu! (found this out well after my childhood)
 
Batman Returns: “Face to Face” by Siouxsie & the Banshees
 
The Shining: “The Dream of Jacob” composed by Krzysztof Penderecki
 
Eyes Wide Shut: “Musica Ricercata #2” composed by Gyorgy Ligeti
 
Y Tu Mama Tambien: “Insomnio” by Café Tacuba
 
Blue Velvet: “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison
 
Vanilla Sky: by “Svefn-G-Englar” by Sigur Ros
 
Talk to Her: “Cucurucucu Paloma” by Caetano Veloso
 
Party Monster: “New York, New York” by Nina Hagen
 
Pink Flamingos: “How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?” by Patty Page
 
And for TV, I can’t think of too many, but I do thank Daria for turning me onto a loopy B-side from a band I already loved:
 
“David Jay/Peter Murphy/Kevin Haskins/Daniel Ash” by Bauhaus

Last edited 20 days ago by Phylum of Alexandria
JJ Live At Leeds
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June 4, 2024 9:11 am

Mention of Russian Doll (which I love) brings Gotta Get Up by Harry Nilsson straight to mind. I’d never heard it before but by the end that first season I was very familiar with it. Despite the repeated plays it received in the show it didn’t wear out its welcome.

Zeusaphone
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June 4, 2024 9:13 am

I don’t watch much TV besides ESPN or many movies.

I do know a couple of songs I’ve picked up from commercials. I have no recollection of what the commercials were for.

Naika https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GilJI6hAvPQ

Caesars (used to be Twelve Caesars) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48R_z2-Ihvg

Zeusaphone
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June 4, 2024 7:10 pm
Reply to  Zeusaphone

On further research it was apparently a Smirnoff Ice ad that had “Kick You Out”

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 4, 2024 9:19 am

There’s been so many of these it’s difficult to remember them but I’ll go with one that came up when I was at Disney World last year. We’d unwind with a bit of TV at the end of the day and an Amazon ad with Queen’s Cool Cat was a constant presence. I’d never delved into Hot Space given it doesn’t have the best reputation and I’m not really a fan of Queen but I loved this track.

https://youtu.be/gG968ST1nS4?feature=shared

Zeusaphone
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June 4, 2024 9:51 am

Hot Space is a mess of an album. The songs are almost all good in isolation, but there’s such a mish-mash of styles and tone that it’s hard to figure out how you’re supposed to listen to it all.

Virgindog
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June 4, 2024 10:23 am

I don’t recognize most of these but will have to wait to listen to them when I get home tonight. I’ll also look up a song used in an NFL commercial that I liked so much I looked it up and downloaded it, but for the life of me can’t bring it to mind.

It’s not old age affecting my memory. It’s the dry air.

Virgindog
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June 5, 2024 4:37 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Found it. It’s “Blood In The Cut” by K.Flay. Here’s the SFW audio version because the video comes with a graphic violence warning. Good song, though.

https://youtu.be/BrBh_8FX0fY

Virgindog
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June 4, 2024 1:35 pm

In my next life, I’m going to be a music director for film and TV so I can get my favorite obscure song heard by millions of people.

lovethisconcept
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June 4, 2024 4:19 pm

The song that immediately comes to mind is “All These Things that I’ve Done” by The Killers which Nike used in an ad that ran pretty constantly during the Olympics one year. It wasn’t a new song, but when it came out originally I somehow missed it entirely.

sieglinde
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June 4, 2024 7:45 pm

A recent episode of Hacks — the one where they go golfing — started with a strange but infectious tune about a long snail eating more than a short snail, among other things. It was either a genuine ditty from the early 60s or an ironic one from last year.

Shazam came up empty. My usual lyric hunting came up empty, except for a pointer to Reddit, where someone else figured it out. And now I can share with y’all this 100%-obscure-to-me gem by Conlon & the Crawlers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcPLqIuZxrI

Turns out it was an ironic tune from 1967. When anyone else was gobbling down acid to the Airplane & Iron Butterfly, Charlie Conlon was crafting tunes harking back 5 years or so.

blu_cheez
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June 4, 2024 9:08 pm

So many great needle drops – I was thinking of songs that made me become a fan of the artists’ discography:

o “Wild At Heart” introduced me to Chris Isaak & “Wicked Game”

o This commercial led me to The Ink Spots:
https://youtu.be/cZ3vwIhHodo

o “Goodfellas” got me to Nillson’s “Jump Into The Fire”

o “The Hunger” introduced me to “Bela Legosi’s Dead”

o “Fandango” introduced me to “It’s Too Late” by Carol King

o “High Fidelity” let me hear Beta Band’s “Dry The Rain”

o “Lost In Translation” pointed me to Phoenix’s “Too Young”

Pauly Steyreen
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June 5, 2024 12:06 am
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Goodfellas introduced me to Tony Bennett’s “Rags to Riches”

cstolliver
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June 4, 2024 9:08 pm

The last time I remember this was watching 13 Reasons Why and being captivated by this song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGF7PswOENQ

cappiethedog
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June 5, 2024 3:10 am

“I Have No Sister” by OH NO OH MY is twee heaven, or hell, depending on your feelings about twee. It’s from Barry Jenkins’ first film Medicine for Melancholy. OH NO OH MY aren’t even indie-famous. Jenkins knows his stuff. Before “It’s Alright, Baby” appearing on Gilmore Girls, Komeda probably had about the same level of name recognition as OH NO OH MY. (Also from the Medicine for Melancholy soundtrack “New Year’s Kiss” by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.)

“Slow Emotion Replay”, for me, is the highlight of Matt Johnson’s career. He is The Matt. It’s from the album Dusk. The album was ten years removed from “This is the Day”. Nobody was paying any attention. I was paying attention. So was filmmaker Fatih Akin. “Slow Emotion Replay” isn’t on the Head On soundtrack, but two characters have a deep, philosophical conversation about it.

One more…one more…

“Dyslexic Heart” from Singles made me a Paul Westerberg fan for life.

Also, I’m one of those lame people who learned about Nick Drake from that commercial for Volkswagen. Oh, wait. It gets worse. I thought he was the Pink Floyd’s original lead singer.

Before the internet, it was very easy to learn things horribly wrong.

I thought “Everyday People” was a Joan Jett original. I received three downvotes and a response: “Oh, my.”

LinkCrawford
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June 5, 2024 10:46 pm

I feel like I remember that Paul Anka “Times of Your Life” conversation on the mothership. All I know is that I discovered that song recently, too, and I am not ashamed to say that I really, really like it.
.
Here’s one of my favorite contributions from the last few years. A TV ad for zillow (of all things) used that gorgeous resolution of an a capella chord, and I had to find it out. Searched it to find that it was the adorable “Love You” by The Free Design. The song became my most listened to song of 2022.

(the gorgeous chord resolution is at 1:30 in the song, for those interested.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO7vC58cTl8

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