Jan 212014

I still remember the night when Van Halen‘s “Dance the Night Away” blared out of the movie theater sound system while I watched Argo. Although I never liked Van Halen and still don’t, I have come to believe that the original edition of the band was brilliant in their execution of bad music. Nevertheless, that night in the darkened theater as Ben Affleck strutted to the sounds of Van Halen’s signature song, I first got goosebumps listening to the band’s music.

Last month, while watching the surprisingly funny Anchorman 2, I was once more treated to a movie theater sound system spin of that song. Once more, it sounded fantastic and perfectly set up the characters’ swaggering moment of getting their shit together before an inevitable critical turning point. This got me thinking…

“Dance the Night Away” is primed to replace “Gimme Shelter,” Martin Scorsese‘s go-to classic rock song for this purpose in modern-day motion picture storytelling. A quick glance at the soundtracks for The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle did not indicate the song’s appearance in those films, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Scorsese and Hustle director David O. Russell are scrambling to insert the song in the Director’s Cut of their respective Blu-Ray DVD releases. Lord knows an essential 45 minutes of coke-sniffing and money tossing was left on the cutting-room floor of Scorsese’s latest bid for banging fair-haired actresses.

Until researching this piece, I had no idea what the movie Mission to Mars was, but it looks like legendary copycat director Brian DePalma was ahead of the curve for once in his life, using the song in his 2000 science-fiction film to accompany some random space swagger!

Are there other stock classic rock character development–signifier songs from movies past that you sense are giving way to a new generation of classic rock signifiers?


  7 Responses to ““Dance the Night Away” Replaces “Gimme Shelter” as Go-To Classic Rock Song to Indicate the Swaggering Moment of Getting One’s Shit Together Before the Inevitable Critical Turning Point”

  1. An interesting question, Mod.

    And who will snatch the belt from Walking on Sunshine as the premier “Playful Montage of Scenes from a Budding Romantic Relationship” signifier?

    I can’t think of what song is usually playing behind the scene of a leading lady and her friend trying on different outfits in anticipation of a big date but whoever write a replacement can retire early.

  2. The clothing montage is usually upbeat, lady soul; Aretha’s “Think” or “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”?

    On the Rom-Com circuit, John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me” accompanies every scene where the male lead comes to realize he’s been a shit-heel and commits to changing his ways before Kate Hudson/Katherine Heigl/etc is out of his life forever.

  3. misterioso

    I’m stuck on the idea that Anchorman 2 could be funny.

  4. 2000 Man

    No wonder movies just keep getting worse.

  5. Bronzed Nordic God

    You realize replacing Walking on Sunshine with something else will probably plunge poor Katrina into poverty. That being the case, I’m surprised Every Little Thing She Does is Magic isn’t heard more in that role. Maybe because the verses kind of drag down the momentum.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    Come ON, people! The super-heavyweight champion of this category is, was, and shall evermore remain “For What It’s Worth,” played to the on-screen visual accompaniment of choppers landing in rice paddies, hippies putting flowers in gun barrels, and hot hippie-chick runaways strung out on hashish and bad acid.

  7. misterioso

    Or is it Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” playing to the visuals of the Tet offensive, the breakup of the Columbia University student occupation, and the Chicago ’68 riots?

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