I had hoped to preface this list with a trivia nugget about the first song ever written for a film. Alas, my research has proven inconclusive, though it might have been "Sonny Boy", from the 1928 Al Jolson musical The Singing Fool. (It was almost certainly the first hit song written for a film.) Anyway, lots of well-known songs came from movies. These nine, despite their titles, did not.
- "ROMANCING THE STONE", Eddy Grant. After reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Electric Avenue", the Guyanese-British singer was hired to write and perform "Romancing the Stone" for the 1984 Robert Zemeckis adventure of the same name. The song was cut from both film and soundtrack, for reasons I couldn't ascertain. (Some cite a rift between Grant and "a producer", but I haven't found a credible source for that.) Grant released "Romancing the Stone" as a single anyway; it climbed as high as #26.
- "(THE MAN WHO SHOT) LIBERTY VALANCE", Gene Pitney. Believe it or not, it's still unclear as to whether this was ever officially intended to be the theme song to the 1962 James Stewart-John Wayne Western. Pitney claimed Paramount had bankrolled the Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition, then decided to scrap it while Pitney was literally in the studio about to record it. The song nevertheless became a Top 10 smash.
- "DISTURBIA", Rihanna. It is pure coincidence that Rihanna's 2008 chart-topper shares its name with the 2007 Shia LaBeouf thriller. Though perhaps songwriter Chris Brown – or one of his colleagues – was influenced by the film's title, if not its Rear Window-esque plot.
- "NIGHT MOVES", Bob Seger. The 1975 drama Night Moves was a noirish Gene Hackman vehicle, featuring a very young Melanie Griffith. Some '70s movies have aged well; this one hasn't. In any event, Bob Seger's haunting single came out the following year. Interestingly, it was inspired by another film: 1973's American Graffiti.
- "NEBRASKA", Bruce Springsteen. The title isn't the giveaway, but the opening lyrics sure are: "I saw her standin' on her front lawn just twirlin' her baton" – the image is straight out of Terrence Malick's 1973 debut Badlands, with Sissy Spacek playing said baton twirler. Both Badlands and "Nebraska" (released in 1982) were based on the Charles Starkweather murder spree of 1958. Springsteen has confirmed that the Malick film inspired his song. To confuse matters further, Springsteen had already released a tune called "Badlands" in 1978, though it had no connection to Malick's work.
- "ALFIE", Cilla Black. This one's a complicated case. For the 1966 film Alfie, which made Michael Caine a star, Paramount once again commissioned Burt Bacharach and Hal David to write a ditty. Yet the original version of "Alfie", recorded by Black, didn't make it into the film for its British release. So for Alfie's American expansion, United Artists hired Cher to rerecord the track, which was then played over the film's end credits. The only version of Alfie I've ever seen, on Paramount Home Video, excludes it entirely.
- "SINK THE BISMARK", Johnny Horton. In a similar vein as "Alfie", country star Horton, coming off the success of "The Battle of New Orleans", was hired to cowrite and sing this march to promote the US release of the 1960 UK war movie Sink the Bismarck! (Note the proper spelling.) 20th Century Fox was concerned that Stateside audiences were unfamiliar with this Brit-centric WWII battle, so Horton's tune was meant to educate as well as enthuse. It was heard in the trailers but not in the film itself; it went on to be a #3 hit for Horton.
- "CINDERELLA MAN", Rush, Eminem. The 2005 Ron Howard movie about Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) might have lifted its title from the 1977 Rush track. And Eminem might have lifted his own song's title from the film. Who can say? These three things otherwise have nothing in common.
- "PRIVATE IDAHO", The B-52s. People in my creaky generation already knew about this 1980 single by the time Gus van Sant coopted its title for his hustler drama My Own Private Idaho in 1991. I'm speculating that younger folks with a poor grasp of 20th century pop culture might be misled. Regardless, the B-52s single isn't heard or even referenced in the film.