Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday's Radio Show: Coming of Age with John Hughes

Here's the playlist from Wednesday's radio show. As always, the highlighted and/or underlined links are songs that can be played.

Eighties Killing Joke Weird Science (1985)
Oh Yeah Yello Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Holiday Road Lindsey Buckingham National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
The Edge Of Forever Dream Academy Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Left of Center Suzanne Vega Pretty in Pink (1986)
Beat City The Flowerpot Men Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Hang Up The Phone Annie Golden Sixteen Candles (1984)
If You Were Here Thompson Twins Sixteen Candles (1984)
Geek Boogie Ira Newborn and the Geeks Sixteen Candles (1984)
March Of The Swivelheads English Beat Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Can't Help Falling in love Lick The Tins Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987)
Turn To The Sky The March Violets Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987)
Shellshock New Order Pretty in Pink (1986)
Fire In the Twilight Wang Chung Breakfast Club (1985)
She's Having A Baby Dave Wakeling She's Having A Baby (1988)
Crazy Love Bryan Ferry She's Having A Baby (1988)
Sixteen Candles Stray Cats Sixteen Candles (1984)

Almost made it: "Apron Strings" Everything But the Girl, "Lenny" Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Twist and Shout" Beatles, Furniture "Brilliant Mind," Pete Shelley "Do Anything"

No way (see below): OMD "If You Leave," Simple Minds "Don't You Forget About Me," Oingo Boingo "Weird Science", Psychedelic Furs "Pretty in Pink," Flesh for Lulu "I Go Crazy"

I'm very proud of myself. I managed to put to get an hour-plus show on music from John Hughes films without relying on either the biggest or the most overplayed songs associated with the films. What you few people remember is that these Hughes soundtracks definitely included some pop gems.

I don't know about you, but my personal favorite John Hughes soundtracks are Some Kind of Wonderful and Ferris Bueller's Day Off – the first being his least successful film from the period, the second not even having an official soundtrack because Hughes felt the music from Ferris Bueller was too diverse to collect in one place. My least favorite ones? His most successful ones, Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. I don't know what that says about me. But it goes back to what I said on an earlier "Soundtrack Sunday" post. The most successful soundtracks are ones where its songs evoke specific scenes. That's what songs like "Beat City," "Turn To The Sky" and "Oh Yeah" do for me.

Anyway, Hughes has gotten a bad rap in recent years for the commercialization of the "alternative" sound. And Jon Cummings of recently put together an interesting post on how contributing to a Hughes film was the death knell for bands such as Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs and OMD.

I would argue, however, that by putting together films that appealed to teenagers with music that was somewhat on the cutting edge, Hughes helped widen American tastebuds. Perhaps not in the same way that MTV, IRS Records and college radio did. But I remember the time it was inconceivable that Simple Minds would be played on Top 40 radio, let alone have a No. 1 hit. A popular movie that taps into teen angst will do that. Plus, look at the musical chances that Hughes took on his later "coming of age" movies. You have Jesus & Mary Chain and Pete Shelley on Some Kind of Wonderful and XTC, Kate Bush and Bryan Ferry populating the She's Having A Baby CD. No way have any of these artists sold out to the mainstream.

By the way, you might not have noticed, but the reclusive Hughes has a credit on a newly released movie. Drillbit Taylor (2008) is based on a story that Hughes wrote years ago. Somewhat appropriately, the film is co-written by Seth Rogen, who may wind up being this generation's Hughes.

Onward to the notes:
  • I have a special fondness for the Thompson Twins "If You Were Here," the closing song from Candles. One of their most beautiful and haunting songs. Plus, I promised my friends at Popdose that I would post the complete song one of these days. So there you go.
  • You know the way John Williams has always been George Lucas' and Steven Spielberg's personal composer? Or how Tim Burton always seems to use Danny Elfman? Well, for a few films at least, Ira Newborn was Hughes' musical maestro, scoring Sixteen Candles, Weird Science and Uncle Buck before going on to compose music for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) and the Naked Gun series.
  • Good luck finding anything about the Flowerpot Men. And don't confuse them with the similarly named late 60s hippie group. "Beat City" can only be found on the group's hard-to-find Peel Sessions (1994) CD.
  • Lindsay Buckingham has a new version of "Holiday Road" on his recently released double CD, Live at the Performance Hall (2008), and it sounds pretty faithful to the totally indispensable original.
  • Suzanne Vega, who was so shy and humorless during the 80s, loosened up more in the next decade. One sign: These days, when she plays "Left of Center" in concert, she tells the audience "This is where Joe Jackson is supposed to play his piano solo." By the way, let's clear up some Internet misinformation about this song. This was not released on any Vega album prior to Pretty in Pink.

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