The biggest story in the music world this week is about a song from 1985: Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).” The fever-pop classic re-enters the Billboard Hot 100 this week (chart dated June 11) at No. 8 — 22 spots higher than it originally peaked at back in ’85 — thanks to its extensive use in the fourth season of Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things, a usage that has introduced the song to a new generation (while re-igniting older audiences’ love for the singular left-field hit).
It’s the kind of chart spike that makes all kinds of pop watchers stand up and take notice, showing how unpredictable the charts have become in 2022, and how high the commercial ceiling is for catalog favorites right now. But it’s not the first time that a big media sync has brought an older song — one whose movie or TV usage is separated from its original release by over a decade — onto the Hot 100, or even back as high as No. 8. Here are 10 such examples:
The Beatles, “Twist and Shout” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off / Back to School)
The Beatles’ cover of the early soul standard “Twist and Shout” (originally popularized by the Isley Brothers) was a No. 2 Hot 100 hit upon its stateside single release in 1964. In 1986, it was revived by two separate hit film comedy syncs: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which Matthew Broderick’s title character lip-syncs to the Beatles’ version from a parade float, and Back to School, in which the song is performed by Rodney Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon character during a bar scene. The dual usage helped return the song to the Hot 100, where it hit No. 23 that September.
Ben E. King, “Stand by Me” (Stand by Me)
Ben E. King’s 1961 R&B standard “Stand by Me” was not only prominently used in the Rob Reiner-directed adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Body, it carried a good deal of the movie’s emotional core — and also lent it its title. In addition to a single re-release, “Stand By Me” also got a brand new music video in 1986, featuring teen film stars River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton lip-syncing along to a live King performance, then joining him onstage to dance with him. The song, which peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 in ’61, returned to the top 10 in late 1986, reaching No. 9.
Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World” (Good Morning, Vietnam)
Despite enduring today as one of his most famous and recognizable songs, Louis Armstrong’s classic ballad “What a Wonderful World” was not a stateside hit upon its original release in 1967. (It was bigger in the U.K., where it topped the Official UK Singles chart and was the best-selling single of 1968.) It didn’t reach the Hot 100 for the first time until after its appearance in the 1987 Robin Williams war comedy Good Morning, Vietnam, in which the song is played over a montage of powerful wartime images. The use was striking enough to cause the single to be reissued in the U.S., and it reached No. 32 on the Hot 100 the next February.
The Contours, “Do You Love Me” (Dirty Dancing)
The Contours’ signature soul-pop hit went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 back in 1962, a year before the 1987 coming-of-age romance Dirty Dancing is set. The movie’s soundtrack, a mix of period favorites and new pop songs, was popular enough to eventually be certified diamond by the RIAA, and “Do You Love Me” — which plays over the memorable dance scene in which Jennifer Grey’s Baby character meats Patrick Swayze’s Johnny for the first time — was re-issued as a single. It got to No. 11 during its new chart run the following August.
The Righteous Brothers, “Unchained Melody” (Ghost)
Patrick Swayze once again played a pivotal role in getting a golden oldie back onto the Hot 100 in 1990, when the Righteous Brothers’ ballad “Unchained Melody” (a No. 4 hit in 1965) was used as a love theme between Swayze’s character Sam and his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) in the hit 1990 sci-fi romance Ghost. The song re-charted that year, in two separate versions — the original, which was not widely available for sale at the time, and a re-recorded version that was released as a new single. Both versions charted on the Hot 100 simultaneously, with the older version reaching No. 13 (largely on airplay) and the better-selling new version hitting No. 19.
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Wayne’s World / Bohemian Rhapsody)
While “Bohemian Rhapsody” stands today as Queen’s signature hit and one of the most beloved songs of the 20th century, it peaked at a relatively modest No. 9 on the Hot 100 during its original chart run in 1975-76. The group would better that in 1992, a half-year after frontman Freddie Mercury’s death, when the song was used in a soon-to-be-iconic car singalong scene in the hit film comedy Wayne’s World (and also received an updated music video, one of the year’s most-played clips on MTV) and got all the way to No. 2 on the chart. The song returned to the Hot 100 one more time in 2018, when it re-charted at No. 33 following its use in the hit Freddie Mercury biopic of the same name.
The Knack, “My Sharona” (Reality Bites)
L.A. power-poppers The Knack scored the year-end Hot 100 No. 1 single of 1979 with one of the year’s few non-disco chart-toppers, the strutting (and graphic) love song “My Sharona.” A decade and a half later, the song experienced a small revival thanks to the hit Gen X comedy Reality Bites, in which a number of characters excitedly dance to it when it comes on the radio in a gas station convenience store. A lightly remixed version of the song briefly charted on the Hot 100 in 1994, hitting No. 91.
N.W.A, “Straight Outta Compton”
N.W.A’s gangsta rap standard-setter “Straight Outta Compton” was far too inflammatory for most radio stations to touch upon its original 1988 release, resulting in it never gracing the Hot 100 in its original run. But 27 years later, the enduring song crashed the chart thanks to the success of the N.W.A biopic of the same name, reaching No. 38 in September 2015. Not only was it the song’s first Hot 100 visit, it was the group’s first (and to date, only) appearance of any kind on the listing.
Nirvana, “Something in the Way” (The Batman)
You wouldn’t call Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” an obscurity, exactly — no song that’s been featured on an album that’s sold enough to be certified diamond really could be — but it’s the rare non-single to be included on this list, having subsided as the deep-cut closer to the grunge band’s epochal 1991 LP Nevermind. The song got a rare solo spotlight earlier this year, however, when it was prominently featured in the blockbuster The Batman, as a sort of theme song for the film’s brooding protagonist. The ensuing bump was enough to send it onto the Hot 100 this March, peaking at No. 46.
Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill” (Stranger Things)
The reason for the season: Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” returns to the Hot 100 at No. 8 this week as one of the most-streamed and most-sold songs in the country, thanks largely to its multiple uses in the most recent season of Stranger Things. It’s the rare older song to return to the Hot 100 due to a TV placement rather than a movie sync, with even examples as famous as The Sopranos‘ finale usage of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” failing to inspire similar bumps (granted, with different chart rules in place at the time, and in an era before streaming took hold) — though reality competitions like American Idol and musical TV programs like Glee have sent plenty of cover versions of older hits onto the chart.