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"Pineapple Express" and A Brief History Of Plot Songs

By Spout | Spout July 2, 2008 at 4:05AM

Huey Lewis' trip on the "Pineapple Express" provides the best excuse we'll ever have to look back at 50 years worth of plot songs.
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Huey Lewis' trip on the "Pineapple Express" provides the best excuse we'll ever have to look back at 50 years worth of plot songs.

By Karina Longworth


This is it, the day we’ve been waiting for two full decades (or, at least, since we first heard it was happening back in December): the Huey Lewis plot song written specifically for the David Gordon Green-driected, Judd Apatow-produced stoner comedy "Pineapple Express" has hit the web! The Playlist first posted a clip of the song last night; today, Whitney at Pop Candy points to the full thing, available for streaming or download on MySpace.

It’s very much in classic Huey Lewis plot song mode, complete with gratuitous hand claps and sax solo. It’s not as directly narrative as, say, “Back in Time” (above), but it’s slightly more literally connected to the film than, like, “The Power of Love.” A sample from the chorus: “How did we get into this mess? Pineapple Express! Can’t deal with this stress! Totally gone, cause we’re on, Pineapple Express!” It is the best, and it is also totally the worst.

As we’ve discussed before, plot songs take the science of the source cue to a new level. After the jump, a brief, video-guided journey through plot song history. Let us know what we’ve left out.


1955: “(Love is) The Tender Trap” from "The Tender Trap"

Though this Frank Sinatra/Debbie Reynolds sex comedy was based on a play, the song sung twice by Sinatra in the film (once over the opening credits, once directly to Reynolds, as seen above) was written specifically for the movie, and was nominated for an Oscar. Like the best plot songs, it does more than just set a tone or reiterate the film’s plot––it actually becomes integral to it.


1967: “Mrs. Robinson” from "The Graduate"

According to Mark Harris’ Pictures at a Revolution, Paul Simon was under contract to write three original songs for Mike Nichols’ movie. He turned in two, and Nichols liked neither. “Have you got anything else?” the director asked. Simon and Art Garfunkel apparently “muttered to each other” for a few minutes, and then played a song-in-progress, which was then called “Mrs. Roosevelt,” “about icons of a certain generation.” Nichols loved it, “Roosevelt” was changed to “Robinson,” but the song remained unfinished by the time a mostly instrumental version of it was cut into the movei (see above). When it was released as a single a year later, lines alluding to characters and themes from the film were mashed together with lyrics from the “Roosevelt” draft.


1981: “Arthur’s Theme” from "Arthur"

I desperately wanted to honor this era with a song from another Dudley Moore film, “Ready to Take a Chance Again” as sung by Barry Manilow in "Foul Play," but this Christopher Cross classic is really the finer specimen of plot song. I think most people my age know this song, but haven’t even seen "Arthur"; I watched it for the first time a few years ago and was blown away (okay, maybe not blown away, but definitely surprised) by how dark it is. It’s about this total fuck-up rich kid, this terrible, terrible alcoholic who leaves nothing but destruction in his path…until he falls in love with Liza Minnelli. But the song totally give him a pass, reframing Arthur as this loveable loon, “just a boy…laughing about the way they want him to be.” Um…he’s laughing because he’s been drunk since 1967.


1985: “Weird Science” from "Weird Science"

The rare example of a plot song making the film that spawned it superfluous. Infused with an introspection that the the John Hughes movie simply had no interest in (”From my heart and from my head, why don’t people understand my intentions?”), there’s absolutely no reason to see the entire film if you can watch the Oingo Boingo music video above. Um, okay…the movie has a young Robert Downey Jr, I guess. But the song encapsulates the narrative such as it is and the video incorporates all the relevant clips from the film––plus it’s got original Dr. Frankenstein Colin Clive, AND Danny Elfman imitating Colin Clive. We’re done here.



1989: “On Our Own” from "Ghostbusters 2"

I understand that the selection of Bobby Brown over Ray Parker Jr might seem controversial to some. But look at the evidence: “Found out about Vigo/The Master of Evil/Try to battle my boys?/That’s not legal!” I’m absolutely positive that this is the finest plot song verse ever written.