Category Archives: Billy Jack

Today’s Top 5: Opening Songs in Movies

fullsizeoutput_1018So I found myself, as a visitor, in a hospital room yesterday morning with time to kill. Sure, I have a few games on my phone that I sometimes (obsessively) play, but I wasn’t in the mood. What to do? I decided to give the new-to-me Xfinity TV app, which enables subscribers to take the cable-TV experience with them, a try. (It’s Xfinity’s way of competing with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, I imagine.) It’s a good idea marred by the same basic problem of cable-TV in general: excess.

In other words, every friggin’ channel you don’t want is there, sharing space with the few you do, in the “live” TV section. As a result, scrolling through the guide is something of a nightmare.

fullsizeoutput_1017So, just as I often do at home, I found my way to the OnDemand section; and, thus, today’s Top 5 was born. No rhyme nor reason to the picks – these are, quite literally, the first music-minded opening sequences that occurred to me (that I could find on YouTube, I hasten to add).

1) Fast Times at Ridgemont High – “We Got the Beat” (Go-Go’s). I have to say, I’ve seen this teen comedy many times, including at the movie theater at the Village Mall in Horsham in 1982, though not once in the past 25 years…until yesterday, that is, when I watched the first few minutes to gauge the quality of the picture via the hospital’s Wi-Fi. Which is to say: I’d forgotten just about everything about it, including that the Go-Go’s provided the soundtrack to the opening – and what an opening! In just a few minutes, it portrays mall-based teen life circa the early ‘80s as well if not better than anything I’ve seen.

2) Valley Girl – “Girls Like Me” (Bonnie Hayes & the Wild Combo). Another early ‘80s teen film, another early ‘80s pop masterpiece. (I wrote more about the film here.)

3) Saturday Night Fever – “Stayin’ Alive” (Bee-Gees). Through the years, the film has taken something of a backseat to its pulsating soundtrack, which is a shame: It’s a quite-good (and fairly downbeat) look at life in NYC during the late ‘70s.

4) Grease – “Grease” (Frankie Valli). What can be said about this film? Some folks hate it; I don’t. As I wrote here, I saw it a dozen times in ’78 – and have seen it far more times than I can count in the years since.

5) Foxes – “On the Radio” (Donna Summer). Another good (though not great) film that documents a slice of life experienced by some teens in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. It’s notable for starring Jodie Foster and former Runaway Cherie Curie. (I couldn’t find just the opening credits, so the below clip is actually for the entire film. I.e., it’s sure to be removed by the YouTube gods soon…)

And a few bonuses…

6) American Graffiti – “Rock Around the Clock” (Bill Haley & the Comets). A classic film that never gets old. On a related note: Cindy Williams’ memoir, Shirley, I Jest!, includes her memories of making the movie – along with lots more. Well worth the read!

7) Billy Jack – “One Tin Soldier” (Coven) – Oh, I know: Billy Jack?! Despite its many flaws, it’s one of my favorite movies. I first saw it as a kid, when this song and the film’s fight scenes grabbed my attention; and, in the decades since, the underlying hippie message of peace and love (and karate chops to back ‘em up) appeal to me all the more…

Today’s Top 5: A 1970s Potpourri

Some things just take me back – the opening to Room 222, for instance. I’m immediately transported to one summer in the early 1970s when we visited my grandparents on my dad’s side. I remember sitting on the living-room floor in their one-bedroom apartment, eyes glued to their color TV, in awe of the big kids walking across their big campus. I couldn’t wait to grow up.

Those were the years, I should mention, that color TV was a big deal to me. As I wrote a few years ago, we moved to Saudi Arabia in August 1970, when I was 5, and lived there until late May 1975, a month and change before my 10th birthday. While we owned a portable black-and-white TV, and Jeddah’s lone TV station carried some English-language fare, there wasn’t much to watch – Mighty Mouse, The Brady Bunch, The Invaders and UFO are four shows that I recall seeing over there, but never on a regular basis. Often, you’d turn on the TV to find old men playing traditional Middle Eastern music on traditional Middle Eastern instruments – or a test pattern. There either wasn’t a set schedule or I was too young to decipher it; and, even if there was, there were so many other things to do that watching TV was a second- or third-tier activity.

In other respects, however, life – from my perspective, I hasten to add – wasn’t that different than if we’d remained in the States: We lived in a community with other American families, took a bus to an American school, and watched American movies – the compound had an outdoor movie theater, which is where I first saw one of my all-time favorite films, Billy Jack. (Oh, I know: It’s far from a five-star classic. Yet I enjoy it. Like Room 222, it takes me back.)

And, just like other families, we took summer vacations – not to the shore, but Beirut, Ethiopia and Disney World, plus back to Philadelphia to see the grand folks.

Music had yet to become an omnipresent force in my life at that stage, but Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits received a lot of play on my portable record player, especially the novelty historical songs. Another novelty song that my friends and I enjoyed – Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting.”

My parents, on the other hand, weren’t into novelties. They preferred Neil Diamond, including “Holly Holy” –

– and the second side of Tap Root Manuscript. Of course, if we’d remained in the States, we’d have been treated to more of everything – and when TV and music combined, it wouldn’t have (always) been old men playing old music. Check out this cool clip of Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell and Linda Ronstadt from 1971:

Returning to the top: TV themes. This is another one that takes me back – though not to the early ‘70s, but 1977 or ’78, or thereabouts, when I started watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show in reruns. Like Room 222, it made me want to grow up faster.