[continued from last post]
In 1985, OMD had honestly scraped their way into the US top 30 with “So In Love,” a mushy piece of pop that was among the last song’s written during the “Crush” period that was scheduled to be dropped from the running… until Martin Cooper persuaded Andy + Paul to demo it first. It eventually became their calling card in The States… at least for a while. Moving from the 198 position with your new single on the Top 200 to number 26 is quite a feat. The same year, the band found that director John Hughes had wanted to use their [appropriate] “Tesla Girls” in his film “Weird Science.” The next year, both threads for the band came to their logical conclusion.
After all, the template had been locked down the previous year when Simple Minds, another cult New Wave band on Virgin Records in the UK but signed to A+M Records in The States found themselves recording the lead single to the soundtrack of a John Hughes film, “The Breakfast Club.” These previous nobodies grabbed the brass ring and shot to the top on a teenfilm hype second to none. By the next year, John Hughes was a bigger brand than the studios that released his films. Junior high school students across America eagerly awaited his next dive into the bucket of suburban Chicago teen angst that was his métier. This time he came a-knocking on OMD’s door.
Would they be so kind as to write a hit single for his new film, “Pretty In Pink?” Though inspired by the title of the Psychedelic Furs “hit” from 1981, Hughes obviously thought that OMD was a better standard bearer to carry the mandatory crossover hit up the charts. Sorry, Mr. Butler. The film was about a teenaged girl in a love triangle with a quirky New Waver and a snobby preppie. In the end, she decided to drop the prep and walk on the wild side with Jon Cryer. OMD wrote the song “Goddess Of Love” to commemorate the story and after it was committed to tape, Hughes called once again on the band. Bad news awaited.
Hughes had made his film and test marketed it in a bunker full of teenaged girls with electrodes attached to their foreheads who in no uncertain terms let Mr. Hughes know that …omigod… like… of course Molly Ringwald would drop Mr. Spazmo for that dreamboat with all that cash!! He gave the band 24 hours in a studio to write, record and mix a new song that would be appropriate to the now very different movie. They began their tour two days later.
Bruised and batters, and probably with a coke bill the likes of which they had never seen before, the band emerged from their studio bunker with “If You Leave.” A song which went to number four in the US charts. The compressed drums were of the period, but the single was a fairly weird mashup of disparate elements that failed to gel with me. Andy McCluskey’s breathy, sensitive emoting now carries the bittersweet sentiment of the song a bit too forcefully. He’s still doubling his vocals, which he tended to do a lot in this period to fatten his sound.
The only aspect of the song which has any currency with my ears was the sampled, swelling string section which added a 60s kitsch element to the otherwise bland song. Speaking of bland, Martin Cooper’s sax solo was soporific to the max with a dissolute tone that suggested that he got none of the stimulants the other two were gobbling up. It was all very missable. In fact, this one made “Don’t You [Forget About Me]” sound even better in comparison. On the other hand, at least OMD saw some decent money for this song that they at least wrote and could collect royalties on. Unlike Simple Minds.
At the end of the day, the whole “under the gun” aspect of the song’s creation suggested that they at least came out of this ordeal with some serious sales and the highest profile they would ever have… in America. Abroad, the single barely scraped into the UK top 50; continuing their downward trend. It did well in OZ/NZ. As usual, the single sleeve left no doubt as to who was actually being promoted with the song, but at least OMD had managed to really consolidate the success that they had achieved the previous year; albeit with the leverage of a serious cross-platform Hollywood promotional campaign. Bully for them, but these John Hughes soundtracks were already overstaying their welcome with me. As usual, the most important thing to me as a fan was the age old question: where would they go from here?
Next: …Back To The Hague