On the Trend of Ironically Using ‘Innocent’ Pop Tunes in TV & Film

Must See Moment: Amsterdam | Killing Eve Sundays at 8pm | BBC America

 
 
Season II of Killing Eve‘s twisted juxtaposition of innocent kids novelty song A Windmill in Old Amsterdam to the onscreen action in Dutch shop window brothel brought to mind The Knack’s Doug Feiger’s objection to Quentin Tarantino’s proposed use of his biggest hit My Sharona in Pulp Fiction.
 
 
According to Soundscan, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack sold 3 million copies; Reality Bites sold 1.9 million. Any regrets, Fieger?

“No,” he says matter-of-factly. “Reality Bites was a good film. And I am also a fan of Quentin Tarantino. I loved Reservoir Dogs…” he pauses.

“Put it this way, I’d much rather see Winona Ryder dancing in a 7-11 to my song than see Ving Rhames being sodomized in the back of a curio shop.”

 

My Sharona - Reality Bites (3/10) Movie CLIP (1994) HD

 

Of course you can’t mention Quentin Tarantino’s use of ironic pop songs without thinking of that classic one hit wonder Stealers Wheel and their Stuck in the Middle With You sequence in Reservoir Dogs.

 

Stuck in the Middle With You - Reservoir Dogs (5/12) Movie CLIP (1992) HD

 

 

Windmill writers Dicks and Rudge have long since passed on, which for them in this context is probably for the best.

Bowie also covered the jaunty tune, presumably in his Laughing Gnome phase:
 
 

David Bowie - A Windmill in Old Amsterdam
 
 
Perhaps one of the most surprising memorable scenes was in American Psycho, scored by everyone’s favorite 80’s pop group, Huey Lewis & the News.
 
 

Hip to be Square - American Psycho (3/12) Movie CLIP (2000) HD

 
 
Of course Tarantino himself trail-blazed the juxtaposition of pop tunes with violent imagery, which has led an explosion of its use in movies, including Tiny Tim’s Tiptoe Through The Tulips in Insidious, The Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun in Room 1408, The Dickies’ Banana Splits in Kick Ass, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 (and many others) in Deadpool II, Enya’s Orinico Flow in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo etc.
 
Pre-Tarantino, mention must be made of John Landis’ use of pop as a contrapuntal against the onscreen action, notably Sam Cooke’s Blue Moon in An American Werewolf in London (1981). See also Syd Straw’s Que Sera, Sera at the beginning of Heathers (1988).
 

Insidious demon scene "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"

 

 

Kick Ass Fighting Scene

 

Sony Picture's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo "Torture" Scene - Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgård

 

An American Werewolf In London Full moon werewolf transformation scene

 

And of course in TV shows, including Nat King Cole’s Pick Yourself Up in Breaking Bad (a prison scene murder), more recently The Bay City Rollers’ Saturday Night in The Umbrella Academy, Treadstone‘s pivotal use of the French nursery rhyme Frère Jacques, and recently we heard The Inkspots’ I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire in HBO’s Watchmen.
 
Breaking Bad -- Pick Yourself Up

 

Saturday Night • Bay City Rollers, The Umbrella Academy Soundtrack

 

한효주 [TreadStone] Are you sleeping?

 

Watchmen S1 Ep6 The Ink Spots - I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire

 

 
Then of course, there was last year’s Joker sequence with the biggest hit of Gary Glitter’s career.

 

 

Joker Music Video | Rock & Roll Part 2 - Gary Glitter

 

 
So, Bleeding Fool readers -- any others of note? There’s got to be many, many, more I didn’t mention. Sound off in the comments below.

 

Arnell Esq

Arnell Esq

Broadcast consultant - former Director/Creator of ITV3, ITV4 in the UK, producer/writer (most recently Bob Fosse for Sky Arts in May 2019), commentator/rent-a-gob for trades, broadsheets and magazines. Also occasional lecturer (University of Westminster, London). Content provider.

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON