I was going to talk about one of the records coming up this week, then I realized that it had been a bit since I had run a Theme Week here @ PPM and figured that I could work this action more substantially and give the review a wider context as well. So today we’ll begin with the elephant in the room. One of the 800 lb gorillas of 80s soundtracks… and that is likely to point in a certain direction.
Various: Pretty In Pink OST – US – CD 
- Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark: If You Leave
- Suzanne Vega [featuring Joe Jackson on piano]: Left Of Center
- Jesse Johnson: Get To Know Ya
- INXS: Do Wot You Do
- Psychedelic Furs: Pretty In Pink ’86
- New Order: Shellshock
- Belouis Some: Round, Round
- Danny Hutton Hitters: Wouldn’t It Be Good
- Echo + The Bunnymen: Bring On The Dancing Horses
- The Smiths: Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
The album started off with that, in 1986, was one of my core collection bands and [in theory] a track of great interest. However, by 1986, the bloom was definitely off the OMD rose. As of 1984, the band began triangulating towards the mainstream in spite of being very unconnected to that in prior years. This was the result of their 1983 opus selling a tenth of what their 1981 opus had. By 1986 this meant that the one magical OMD were treading commercial water by just trying to make hit music.
John Hughes was making teen films that he wanted to have his favorite bands peppering the soundtracks for. OMD were on the shortlist for 1986, having already given the “treatment” to Simple Minds the previous year. And like Simple Minds, OMD got a US top five single from their compromise. At least this time OMD actually got to write the hit song. Too bad for them that the director radically changed his film following a test screening that turned his plot upside down once a room full of teenagers had their say.
This found OMD having delivered one song [the not bad “Goddess Of Love”] and given 24 hours to write a completely different song for the now radically different ending. Armed with a cache of Peruvian Marching Powder, they band labored mightily and brought forth “If You Leave.” An uninteresting pop hit that overstayed its welcome by at least 45 seconds and more criminally, a song that was OMD in name only. The tune was slight and faceless, but the Hollywood Hype machine will not be denied and it was a huge hit in America. Mission accomplished. [insert yawn]
The next song was a far more attractive proposition. In 1985, I had fallen hard for the acoustic folk [careful…this doesn’t happen every day!] of Suzanne Vega’s debut album. The producers wisely had Ms. Vega write a very perceptive song [of course] that explored the character that Molly Ringwald played in the film. Then they managed to get Joe Jackson to do a modest guest turn on piano; doubling the star power of the song with two A+M Records artists. The tune was well produced by Steve Addabbo and…[shut my mouth…] Arthur Baker! The latter of whom was stepping far outside of his 12″ remix electro comfort zone for a sophisticated pop turn.
The song was a perfect follow up to the “Suzanne Vega” album and “Left of Center” was a slightly more richly orchestrated step forward for the artist. The song was peerless and gave me a completely false sense of security, seeing as how Ms. Vega’s “Solitude Standing” album of the next year would never gel with me in spite of giving it perhaps far too many tries in disbelief.
When The Time split up after the “Purple Rain” explosion, Jesse Johnson had found a berth on the soundtracks that A+M was releasing for these John Hughes films. Johnson was on the “Breakfast Club” OST [an album I’ve never owned in any form, by the way…] and his contribution to the 1986 Hughes OST model was “Get To Know Ya.” A bit of his poprock sound with a wikkid solo from the former Time guitarist. The Minneapolis sound was nothing if not a perfect blend of Rock, Pop, Funk, and New Wave, so it was right at home in the time capsule of this album. A track from Johnson that was only here.
In 1985, the “Listen Like Thieves” album took INXS to the precipice of Rock stardom. Their subsequent “Kick” album would cement them there for a few years. Not undeservingly. I eventually came to really admire this band after a slow start and “Do Wot You Do” sounded like a great outtake from “Listen Like Thieves.”
The film may have been inspired by the Psychedelic Furs 1981 underground hit of the same name, but whoever suggested the band re-record the song five years later for this film was definitely uninspired. It’s still “Pretty In Pink,” but all of the mystery and intrigue of the 1981 song was completely wrung out of the tune on the second go-round here. As OMD had run aground by mid-decade, thus did Psychedelic Furs as well. Their next album would be the perfunctory “Midnight To Midnight” but this song would represent their lowest artistic ebb going forward.
In 1986 I was definitely collecting New order, but for reason’s unknown, I never once owned a copy of the “Shellshock” single, which appeared in America on this soundtrack. The track was another New Order collaboration with NYC electro producer John Robie and appeared here in a 6:o5 remix that differs from the only other version I have. The 6:28 mix on the “Substance” 2xCD. But now that I look, I see that “the 12” of “Shellshock” is actually 9:41 and the UK 12″ has a 7:31 dub mix on the B-side. Mental note to self.
“Shellshock” was probably from the era which I’d now typify as “Peak New Order.” Taking us from 1983 to 1987. The mix here built with magnificent subtlety for the first quarter of the song. With clicking insectoid beatbox programming and spartan layers of synth being layered over each other with plenty of space until the track eventually grew to gigantic proportions in your rear view mirror. Then it erupted into a powerful display once the backing chorus of massed voices and main drum programming kicked in.
Belouis Some was an almost-ran that the Berrow Brothers [who made their fortune managing Duran Duran when it really paid off the most] thought might be their second grab at the brass ring. Alas, as the tepid “Round, Round” showed, Belouis Some didn’t have the goods to really ignite. And in the case of this song, producer Bernard Edwards’ time was wasted that could have been put to better use elsewhere.
I was never a fan of Nik Kershaw, but I will admit that his original version of “Wouldn’t It Be Good” stood head and shoulders over the Danny Hutton Hitters’ cover on this album. Why this recording exists might be down to insurmountable rights issues regarding the 1984 hit from MCA records. In any case, Danny Hutton and producer Richard Polodor were old names from my childhood. As a eight year old, the first records I ever bought were by Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf and Polodor was producing those as well!
As Three Dog Night were a Pop/Rock cover band who generally took “songwriter’s songwriter” tunes and gave them a pop spin, I had never heard the original songs that Three Dog Night had recorded their hit versions of as a child. If I had, I might have balked at their possibly colorless renditions of them as I have done with Hutton’s version fo the already colorless Kershaw hit.
Another older song turned up here from Echo + The Bunnymen with “Bring On The Dancing Horses.” It had been the new song on their first “greatest hits” album of the previous year, and it was a lovely flowering of the band’s “imperial period” before the US charts became crucially important to their bottom line. Gorgeous melancholy was there in abundance with a nice Laurie Latham production.
A final older song [from 1984] closed out the album and, gloryoski, it’s a rare example of The Smiths in my Record Cell! Longtime readers may know my antipahy for the vocals of Morrissey but on the evidence of this single, in the early period of their career at least, he was not oversinging that material. Though his croon was still not to my taste, the brief song as evidenced here only had him in the first half of the song. With the last 50 seconds given over to the pleasant sounds of the band making beautiful music. Was this The Smiths that I can live with? I guess so!
John Hughes was a Faustian power with his turbo-charged teen films mowing down a slew of my favorite bands that he had the temerity to rope into contributing songs for his soundtracks. At first I found his attention to my favorite bands flattering. But after a year or two, I grew to dread his next movie. Often wondering what favorite bands of mine would take his offer of fame and riches only to be thrown into the Hollywood rock band wood chipper and discarded afterward. Left as a shell of their former selves as they wondered …what had just happened?!
I only ever bought this album when I saw a cheap copy somewhere in the 90s. On the face of it there ware six songs here that I like. But one of my least favorites here was from OMD; one of my very favorite bands ever. So listening to it is a bittersweet experience. Kudos go to New Order and Suzanne Vega who wrote material for this album specifically. And managed to make a strong showing of it. INXS handed off what sounds like an outtake but they were always a band with very solid B-sides. Older material from Echo + The Bunnymen and even [gasp!] The Smiths was put to admirable re-use here. Jesse Johnson showed why The Time were valued beyond their image as Prince sock puppets. Leaving a third or so of the album as avoidable.
Next: …Tomorrow We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1982!