The use of America’s “A Horse with No Name” in the third episode of the second season of the show Breaking Bad was perfect. The clip above is not the highest quality, but the best available. (Other posters for some reason felt the need to superimpose the lyrics.)
The song doesn’t play through the entire scene, but sets the mood perfectly at the beginning. Perhaps the reasons it works well is that the song is so familiar and non-threatening – while Walter White is all about a latent and explosive man masquerading as a fellow who is familiar and non-threatening.
“A Horse with No Name” and White start at the same mellow place. White is riding peacefully, singing along with the song on the radio. He gets pulled over for a broken windshield. It was broken by a body or debris from a plane disaster that he indirectly caused. His calm quickly unravels and he ends up pepper sprayed and arrested. There is something brilliant about opening the scene with the calmest of all soft rock tunes and ending it with White, awash in guilt, screaming in the back of a police car.
America also had hits with “Ventura Highway,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Lonely People” and “Tin Man.” The band, which still is together, was formed in 1970. The three principals — Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley – met in high school in England, where their Air Force fathers were stationed. The band is in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, according to Wikipedia.
Team Rock has some interesting material on the band and “A Horse with No Name.” The song, which was America’s first hit, was banned by a Kansas City radio station because it was thought to be about drugs (and that “horse” was a reference to heroin). Dan Peek left the band in 1977 and shifted to Christian music, where he had some success. He died in 2011 at age 60.
Worthy of note: The likely low point for the band was a 32-date tour of apartheid-era South Africa.
Below is “Ventura Highway.”