There are some moments in movies that stick with you for all the right reasons. As much as I love and consume superhero movies, not all those moments have to do with comic book characters or action stars in the mold of John McClane. Sometimes, a scene is just so beautifully done that you can watch it a million times and still smile.
That’s how I feel about one particular scene in “Back To The Future.” Specifically, it’s that legendary moment where Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Good at the school dance after helping his parents fall in love. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the song, the movie, or the actors. This scene is just pure, unrivaled fun.
I first saw this movie over 25 years ago. This scene is still one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. When I think “Back To The Future,” I think this scene.
I could talk about this scene for hours on end. However, I’d like to set aside the cinematics for a moment and use it as the basis of fun little thought experiment. Lately, I feel like some of my previous thought experiments were a bit too serious. These experiments should be fun and I think this one has plenty to offer.
The premise is simple. You’re basically in Marty McFly’s shoes and you have a chance to share music from the future with people from the past. For the sake of broadening the experiment, I’ll even tweak a few details. In terms of specifics, here’s the situation.
You’re in 1955 America.
You’re on a stage facing a large audience of kids and their parents.
You have a chance to play one song before you go back to the future.
It could be any song from any era.
You have the ability to play, sing, and perform that song perfectly.
What would that song be?
After first seen that scene in “Back To The Future,” I often entertained thoughts about the song I would play if I were in Marty’s position. Over time, I find myself entertaining those thoughts even more. I’ve been on this planet long enough to see many changes and trends with popular music.
Some of it has been positive.
Some of it has been downright awful.
What we consider good or bad comes down to taste, but there’s no getting around it. What would be considered mainstream today would be considered obscene in 1955. Remember, this was an era where people thought Elvis moving his hips was too risqué. Can you imagine how they would feel if they heard Cardi B’s “WAP” or pretty much any song by Kid Rock?
It would be hard to imagine the full spectrum of peoples’ shock. That’s part of why I asked this same question on the popular subreddit, AskReddit. I did not get nearly as many responses as I’d hoped. That’s why I want to ask it again here.
You’re in that same position as Marty. You have a chance to leave an impression that will transcend time, space, and vastly different musical eras. What song do you play? Here’s my general list in no particular order.
“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
“Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit
“Gin And Juice” by Snoop Dogg
“American Badass” by Kid Rock
“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars
“Superfreak” by Rick James
“X Gonna Give It To Ya” by DMX
“Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue
“American Idiot” by Green Day
“Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses
“Applause” by Lady Gaga
“The Fight Song” by Marilyn Manson
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
If I had to pick one, I honestly would have a hard time deciding. As much as I love these songs, I have a feeling the words might completely fly over the heads of a 1955 audience. If they heard a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Gin And Juice,” they might not understand it. They might be more confused than shocked.
Other songs might get a much stronger reaction. Pretty much any song by Marilyn Manson and Eminem would surely offend, if only because of the profanity. Other songs, like many by Green Day or Lady Gaga, would contain messages that would definitely conflict with 1955 America. However, I still suspect the teenagers would love it.
For that same reason, I think the parents of 1955 would hate every song by Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, but the teenagers would love it. It’s loud, it’s energetic, and it has plenty of sexual overtones. That’s going to appeal to the youth of any era.
Other songs might have truly universal appeal. I feel like most songs by Bruce Springsteen could play in any era and still get audiences cheering, young and old alike. I feel the same about many Taylor Swift songs. I honestly think “Shake It Off” would play well to a 1955 audience. It might even play too well to some crowds.
That’s just my opinion. I still don’t know which song I would play out of that list. What about the rest of you? What song would you play in Marty’s position if you had the opportunity to time travel to 1955? I’d love to see your list, as well. Please share it in the comments.