Amanda By Night's Retro Ectero Page

Retro Ectero is a place to wax poetic about all the wonderful silly things of a past long gone by.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Top Ten Soundtracks of the 80s

I wrote this little article some time ago, when I was hoping to get a paying gig. What they wanted was Top 40, which is fine, but I see I'm missing some of the truly best soundtracks of the decade. This will Part One and when I compile MY list of favorites (and some will be the same), I will post Part 2.

I didn't get the job either, goshdarnit! This is a mighty fine list!!!


Top Ten Soundtracks

If there was ever a decade where music influenced the art of film, it would be the 80s. From the rain slicked streets of Streets of Fire to Madonna singing in a dingy nightclub in Vision Quest, film had become a music video and vice versa. A decade heavily predisposed to trends and fads; it was a rocking toe tapping time for movies. In one glorious year, two monstrous Top 40 songs from movies yielded Oscar Nods: Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News from Back to the Future and Say You Say Me by Lionel Ritchie from White Nights (and won the much coveted statue). It was nearly impossible to boil it down to 10. I factored in record sales, but that wasn’t a defining aspect. At least one of my Top 10 choices was a minor hit when it was originally released but since then it has gone on to cult status, making influence another factor. You may also notice that I omitted The Breakfast Club because although Don’t You Forget About Me by the Simple Minds may well be the apex of 80s teen angst, not one hit single does a good soundtrack make. The final, most important element is that the following 10 listings are classics. Pure and simple.

Valley Girl - A cult classic that barely made crossed the nadir in 1982, the original LP soundtrack was only released for two weeks upon its initial release. Through the years, the movie and the music eclipsed its minor box office grosses and became a favorite time capsule for the post-punk movement. Full of favorites and a few wonderful obscurities, Valley Girl is a must for anyone interested in the music of LA circa early 80s.

Lost Boys - A box office breakthrough, this movie made Kiefer Sutherland a star and it boasted an awesome soundtrack to boot. Echo and the Bunneymen and Roger Daltry put in some good time, but it was the melancholy and supremely melodramatic Cry Little Sister by Gerard McCann that captured what hell being a teenage vampire must be.

Footloose - An incredible soundtrack that garnered one hit after another, this is a look at 80s Top 40 at its best. A nice range of pop tunes from Let’s Hear it For the Boy by Denise Williams and of course, the theme tune by Kenny Loggins, makes the Footloose soundtrack one of the catchiest feel good records of a generation.

Pretty in Pink - This is a beautiful soundtrack full of songs capturing the splendor and pain of being a teenager. Who doesn’t remember Ducky sitting on that old mattress listing listlessly to the Smiths Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want? An eclectic array of postmodern tunes, this is must for anyone who remembers anguish of growing up.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - A movie that transcended the teenage sex comedy and a soundtrack that accompanied Amy Hecklering’s wry image of relationships and youth, Fast Times' best songs are the ones that celebrate the beauty of adolescence. Somebody’s Baby by Jackson Browne aptly implanted an ironic image of innocence lost while capturing Jennifer Jason Leigh’s girl-next-door appeal.

Miami Vice - The show that changed the face of television as we know it, Miami Vice not only made episodic dramas super cool, but the soundtrack generated one hit after another. Glenn Frey’s uber-atmospheric You Belong to the City made a generation yearn for pastel blazers and Florida.

Dirty Dancing - “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” The same could be said for this incredible soundtrack from a movie that started a movement known blissfully as Dirty Dancing. It also cemented Tom Everly as a 60s crooner who still had the power to move us with his voice. But most importantly, it proved that Patrick Swazye could belt out a romantic ballad as good as anyone else. She’s Like the Wind was an amazing breakthrough hit for the actor who was just reaching the pinnacle of his success. Each song is delightfully melodic and a real treat for nostalgia hounds.

Top Gun - There goes Kenny Loggins again. He was the leader in soundtrack hits in the 80s and rightfully so. The Danger Zone was a rollicking rock hit. But it was Berlin’s sweeping ballad Take My Breath Away that brings forth the memory of Cruise and McGillis’ bittersweet romance. Berlin’s song was also nominated for an Oscar and is still as stunningly poignant now as it was in 1986.

Purple Rain - Already established as an incredible (and incredibly sexy) artist, Prince’s acting debut and subsequent soundtrack to Purple Rain is one of the most incredible pop endeavors of the 80s. From R&B to rock to pop, the enigmatic Prince belted out one striking tune after another. Let’s Go Crazy is the best track but Darling Nikki, about an overheated nymphet, drives home that hypnotic sex appeal that made Prince a star then and now.

Beverly Hills Cop - Man, this soundtrack is smokin’! Some of the best hit singles came of off this energetic record. Glenn Frey easily captures the fun of 80s cop movies with The Heat is On. Although the best song on the record goes to the Pointer Sisters addictive Neutron Dance, with its pithy electro sounds, lest we forget Harold Faltermeyer’s subtle instrumental Axel F, which was a huge success and paved the way for instrumental pop songs on the charts.


Blogger Chris Hopper said...

Though a bit more obscure, I would include the Nightmare on Elm Street 4 soundtrack. While not on the soundtrack album, Dramarama's Anything, Anything is an 80's masterpiece. I also loved Vigil's Therapist, and how can you go wrong with a soundtrack that includes Blonde, Sinead O'Connor and The Divinyls? I do like that you included the Lost Boys. Nice list.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Amanda By Night said...

Hey, thanks for checking my list out.

I hope to do a Part 2 soon, with my more personal picks. There were so many awesome soundtracks in the 80s, I still have to figure out which ones to choose!

9:29 PM  
Anonymous cattleworks said...

I read this list and it brought back memories of all those songs playing on the radio.
But I normally don't get into such soundtracks that are song collections. Although, accept that comment with a grain of salt, because I bought the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack for that very reason!

Due to some recent circumstances, I've had a realization that there is a movie soundtrack that made a HUGE impact on me, that only like 300 people saw, its theatrical release limited to one single night almost 30 years ago. No, I'm not talking about NUDE FOR SATAN! (Man, that movie just keeps coming up with me).
It is THE SENIOR FILM: OR, LIFE GOES TO THE MOVIES (1978), a mind-blowing super-8 extravaganza; well, if you were a member of Grand Island High School's graduating class of '78 it was mind-blowing. For others it might be mind-numbing. Yeah, it was a movie my friend Steve and I made, and it was about 70 minutes in length, too! It was a pretty cool film for a couple 18 year-old filmmakers, although, truly, Steve was the driving movie genius behind the camera. But I made my haphazard contributions as well behind the camera, not just as the character of The Grim Reaper on the screen, hee hee hee!
Anyways, THAT film has an AWESOME soundtrack!
I'm gonna have to do a post on this seminal film in my cinematic development.

How ya doing?
Talk to you later!

4:48 AM  
Anonymous c@meron said...

I'll assume the snub of The Pirate Movie was just an oversight...rite?

1:24 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I have to say "Times Square" (1980) was the best soundtrack of that time. The movie? Eh- not so hot. Tim Curry (who was still a "name" from "Rocky Horror") was only in this for ten minutes or so, and the rest was filled with "poor little rich-girl" crap, but the music rocked. It was a double-disc album, and had incredible music like "Down In The Park" by Gary Numan; "Talk Of The Town" by The Pretenders; "Same Old Scene" by Roxy Music & "The Night Was Not" by Desmond Child and Rouge. Good stuff...

11:54 AM  
Blogger Jay Amabile said...

I loved this's complete and definitive. These are the best soundtracks not only of the '80s but of all time.

9:34 AM  
Blogger crapchand said...

Nice list.. its quite comprehensive... though there are some more good tracks that got missed out..nevertheless its good..

7:28 AM  

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