Influence is a bastard; a rugged dog, waiting on a street corner with gnarled teeth. Once that mutt clenches down, it leaves behind a hideous scar — a reminder.
Music’s just as susceptible. While a song never changes, one’s experience can. Whether it’s love at first sight, a hard divorce, a big win, or the death of a close friend or family member, songs influence at different volumes and for varying reasons.
This logic is tantamount to film, television, and those around us. Because of this, we gathered together a rather eclectic (and quite random) assortment of 20 songs that were forever changed by these three mediums. Be forewarned, however, there is no going back.
Shocking Blue – “Venus”
Ruined by: A woman’s razor blade
Since 2001, the Gillete Venus ad campaign hasn’t changed its song. It’s kind of like watching that local commercial for your local Go-Kart Track/Mini-Golf course in 2013, even though they filmed the spot sometime during the Reagan administration. A version of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” (that sounds most like Bananarama’s version) has always been the theme song. It’s brilliant really — even though “Venus” topped the charts when it came out, the song just keeps on resonanting with anyone who’s inclined to need that triple-blade power on their gams. -Jeremy D. Larson
Queen – “We Are the Champions”/”We Will Rock You”
Ruined by: The Mighty Ducks and pretty much every sporting event of the last 30 years
In 1992, Disney’s blockbuster hit, The Mighty Ducks, reintroduced America to a lot of things: hockey, Emilio Estevez, and Queen. The film’s rousing finale — where, y’know, Estevez’ Gordon Bombay defeats the late Lane Smith’s Hawks — gets capped off with a one-two punch of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You”. It’s a triumphant moment for a kid’s film and one that’s never tired, thanks to sporting events across America.
(Granted, this trend probably happened earlier than Ducks, but c’mon, everything Disney touches turns into an iconic thing. Blank Check, anyone?)
Today, it’s an expected institution, and even now, as I type this, WGN is playing “…Champions” while reporting on the Chicago Blackhawks big win against the Boston Bruins for this year’s Stanley Cup. None of this is a bad thing, it’s that both songs have lost their singular identities. They exist solely for sport; they’re arena anthems, they accompany The Organ Interludes. ”Hey, are we Ducks or what?” -Michael Roffman
Q Lazzarus – “Goodbye Horses”
Ruined by: Buffalo Bill (of The Silence of the Lambs)
It’s like you can’t even put on makeup on in front of your vanity and tug at your nipple ring and dance around naked wearing only a kimono to this song anymore. “Goodbye Horses” is definitively ruined by the skin-fetishising transexual serial killer Buffalo Bill in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs — so much so that Q Lazzarus tried to release another version of the song for the Clerks II soundtrack to try to rid it of its stigma.
The song’s composer William Garvey says that the horses in question “represent the five senses from Hindu philosophy (The Bhagavad Gita) and the ability to lift ones perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.” They apparently do not represent a young girl being trapped in a torture basement while Bill does the now-patented Tuck Back. Good luck trying to forget the Tuck Back. -Jeremy D. Larson
BTO – “Takin’ Care of Business”
Ruined by: Office supplies (saved by Arrested Development?)
Not that Canadian rock outfit Bachman-Turner Overdrive is anything worth celebrating, but it’s still a shame one of their many Top 40 hits has become synonymous with Scotch tape, manilla folders, and overpriced bottles of Sprite. For years, it’s been the theme song for either Office Depot, Office Max, and even at one point, K-Mart. There’s no denying this once ’70s radio staple can conjure anything else but the red shirts waiting to make a copy for you. The cheesy piano lines, That Chorus, and the song’s clap fills all eek of droll afternoon programming on a sick day. More recently, however, it was “saved” by Arrested Development, specifically the “Top Banana” episode, where Michael Bluth takes matters into his own hands. Randy Bachman should be proud. -Michael Roffman
Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Ruined by: Innumerable drunk bros, thanks to a revival by The Sopranos
Its nearing the end of the night and everyones having a swell time. Daft Punk is blasting over the house speakers as you pull that cute girl from Econ 101 just a little bit closer. But right as youre about to make a move, an insufferably catchy 17-second keyboard riff envelops the dance floor in a cloud of gushy hysteria that totally thwarts your plans.
Girls shriek, bros raise their overflowing Solo Cups as if toasting the patron saint of parties, and a sweaty, hairy, meaty arm drapes over your shoulder. The pretty brunette is long gone, leaving only drunk dudes threatening to burst your eardrums with their pitchy hollering. It goes on and on and on and on! Sound familiar?
The only pre-2000 track ever to top five million in digital sales, Journeys schmaltzy 1981 power ballad Dont Stop Believin is arguably the most overplayed party tune of all time (edging fellow apostrophized ditty Livin on a Prayer). Plus, its default positioning as the final song of the night inextricably links it with corny bromance and hastily contrived nostalgia.
As if thats not nauseating enough, how about its role in The Sopranos awkward anticlimax? -Henry Hauser
Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir”
Ruined by: Godzilla and Puff Daddy
Remember when Godzilla’s stomps replaced John Bonham’s drum hits on Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”? No? Then you must have slept through 1998. When pyromaniac-turned-filmmaker Roland Emmerich decided to bring the Japanese cult hit to America, with Matthew Broderick in a lead role no less(the Nineties got weird sometimes), Puff Daddy teamed up with Jimmy Page to re-imagine the Physical Graffiti anthem as the lizard’s plodding theme. Look, I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I didn’t skip back and forth between this and The Wallflowers’ underrated cover of Bowie’s “Heroes”, though I will admit my longtime regret. Sigh, there’s no going back once you’ve gone green. -Michael Roffman
The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”
Ruined by: Sunkist
Its a long way from Pet Sounds to Sunkist. But thats the citrusy, carbonated plunge that the Beach Boys unfortunately took in 1980 when Good Vibrations was reworked to sell orange soda. Signature Beach Boys harmonies set to surfing footage soon turns into a beach party replete with bikinis, bronze tans, soda chugging, and the merciless butchering of arguably the greatest pop song ever. Because, as we all know, surfing excitations call for Sunkist good vibrations and orange jubilation! Its enough to worry you that somewhere in the vaults lurk other beverage jingles like Tab Only Knows and Coke-omo. -Matt Melis
The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Who Are You”, “Baba O’Riley”
Ruined by: Anthony Zucker and Jerry Bruckheimer
With the cancellation of both CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, we only have CSI to fret about, but really, the damage has been done. Never again will Roger Daltrey’s scream pierce the soul as it did decades ago. Instead, the rollicking Who cuts conjure up spineless acting by David Caruso and random one-liners by William Peterson. It’s a shame, too, since “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Who Are You”, and “Baba O’Riley” are without a doubt the band’s strongest, most hard-hitting cuts of their catalogue. Now they’re forever theme songs for bloated corpses and random B-roll of Gary Sinise running up and down stairs. Somewhere Keith Moon is running himself over. -Michael Roffman
George Harrison – “What is Life”
Ruined by: Movie montages and/or credits.
Here. Then here. Not so fast, here too. Then finally voila. Blame it on Harrison’s catchy guitar riff, but his 1971 single has since become the star-wipe of aural movie cues. Once a radical highlight off the late Beatle’s 1970 triple album, “What is Life” became a Top 10 hit stateside and cracked the European charts at number one. Since the early ’90s, however, it’s been used to bring the sunlight to any film — even Goodfellas. Oh well, there’s always “My Sweet Lord” and 21 other tracks to indulge in. -Michael Roffman
Ruined by: Watchmen, Shrek
“Hallelujah” is probably the most reviled song that is, on record, flawless. Ripped from context, any musician with even a modicum of talent can rend emotion from the fact that there is actually a minor fall on the lyric “a minor fall” and a major lift on “a major lift.” Leonard Cohen, in writing it, created what is nothing less than a new standard on par with any standard from the jazz era that Ella Fitzgerald might have graced. But context is, of course, everything. And there have been too many cases where the genuine drama of “Hallelujah” has been turned to melodrama at the hands of amateur contextualizers.
That goes for every version of the tune; from John Cale’s under heralded rendition in the first season of the terminally unhip Scrubs, to Jeff Buckley’s towering, blistering, heartbreaking version turned into teen soap star stuff in The O.C., to the gratuitous and deeply uncomfortable use of Cohen’s original to score a gratuitous and deeply uncomfortable sex scene in The Watchmen.
Every time someone plays “Hallelujah”‘s secret chord underneath some eyedrop-assisted young Hollywood up-and-coming somebody, that chord loses a bit of its luster. Every time you hear the words “love is not a victory march” while images above it pretty much render love as a victory march, the king’s throne is further broken, and his hair further cut. “Hallelujah” is flawless, and no one ever wants to hear it again. -Chris Bosman
Billy Joel – “The Piano Man”
Ruined by: Karaoke
Don’t believe us? Go to a bar on Wednesday night at, say, half-past-ten. Look for the guy with popcorn on his face and three empty pitches nearby — self-deprecation optional. -Michael Roffman
Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb – “Singin’ in the Rain”
Ruined by: Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange)
Stanley Kubricks cultish A Clockwork Orange is remembered for several things: Malcolm McDowells outsized performance, its deliciously artificial jargon, those metal hooks holding Alexs eyes open. More infamous, though, is the brutal assault Alex enacts while belting Singin in the Rain, a relentlessly cheery song made famous by its namesake film. Its a queasy juxtaposition, one Quentin Tarantino attempted to replicate in Reservoir Dogs with Stealers Wheels bubblegummy Stuck in the Middle With You. Tarantino, though, is having too much fun to truly taint the song (it remains delightful to this day), whereas Kubrick is cringing with the rest of us, having staged a scene that feels like Real Violence, not Movie Violence. For Kubrick fans, the song no longer conjures splashy puddles and Gene Kellys twinkle toes, but scissors and split seams. -Randall Colburn
George Thorogood – “Bad to the Bone”
Ruined by: The T-800 (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
I don’t think you even need to see James Cameron’s 1991 sci-fi masterpiece to already know what this song soundtracks. It’s one of those rare scenes that live on without having actually been seen — sort of like how everyone knows what Rosebud is even if they’ve never sat through the three hours of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. It’s simple: A naked, robotic Arnold Schwarzenegger beats the shit out of a bunch of bikers at a bar, steals their outfits, and walks outside to Bogart their bikes, too. He puts on shades, he stares down a shotgun, and he rides away. Thorogood’s there for the send-off. You know, in hindsight, this is the rare case where a film’s scene actually improves the song*. Otherwise, were you really going to listen to it outside of a Roadhouse Grill? -Michael Roffman
* – It should be noted that the song was used a year before in Problem Child. Actually, scratch that. Not even John Ritter remembered that film.
Four Tops – “Same Old Song”
Ruined by: Velveeta
Its The Same Old Song is almost a mockery of itself and yet its still considered a classic. Spawned during a drunken moment, even the Holland Brothers admit it was just a simple reversal of chords which perhaps led us to see the true nature of their creative genius. And then Velveeta happened. If you grew up in the ’80s, then you know what Im talking about. As a kid, it was almost impossible to resist the catchy schtick behind Its The Same Old Side because, in the end, it was all about convincing mom that you didnt want to eat those icky green beans any more. However, in retrospect, the commercial is quite sad. It puts out in the open for everyone to see that age catches up to us all and no amount of previous stardom can shelter you from the idea of selling out for a few extra bucks. Its almost as depressing as those hideous blue and yellow suits that match the box. Almost. -Allison Franks
Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland, 1945”
Ruined by: Kids with acoustic guitars in college
If my congressperson were to propose a law banning acoustic guitars on college campuses, I could think of three solid arguments in support of the measure: 1) Elliott Smith; 2) Bon Iver (for anyone who’s attended a liberal arts college in the past five years); and most convincingly, Neutral Milk Hotel‘s entire In The Aeroplane Over The Sea album. While “Communist Daughter” lets you belt out “Semen stains the mountaintops!” to your heart’s content, “Holland, 1945” gives strumming types the chance to impress crushes by imitating usually horridly Mangum’s inimitably nasally yelp.
Each time I hear such an attempt, I think of erstwhile critic Mark Prindle’s story about attending an event where a college student with an acoustic guitar “sang shitty, heartfelt songs at the top of his lungs […] as if unaware that the microphone provides an amplification service.” Only later, when Prindle heard Aeroplane, did he understand the performer’s inspiration. Anyway, Anne Frank was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been an Elephant 6 fan. But let’s let this song rest. -Zach Schonfeld
Santo and Johnny – “Sleepwalk”
Ruined by: Richie Valens’ death, as portrayed by Lou Diamond Philips in La Bamba
Okay, maybe this one’s a little personal, but hopefully somebody can relate. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, my father used to tape movies off HBO every other night. He’d fill them up until each cassette was full, which lead to odd pairings like Ghostbusters and Dirty Dancing; Back to the Future, Part II and Avalon; Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and La Bamba. Given that I was obsessed with the leasee of the Playhouse, I watched Big Adventure enough to also catch La Bamba.
Now, I’m not a big fan of Richie Valens, or Lou Diamond Philips, but I’ll never, ever, ever forget how “Sleepwalk” soundtracked the ending to the film, where Valens’ family screams out their respective lungs on-screen as they discover the news of their son’s death. The film didn’t even use Santo and Johnny’s original recording — it was Blake Mills and Carlos Santana — but everytime it struts on by, I can’t help but think of the career of Lou Diamond Philips. Also, isn’t there just something unsettling about the song, too? -Michael Roffman